The minister of women says she only ‘learnt’ of the drama after it happened and would never ask a journalist to leave a government event, as the news channel ‘claims’.
On Sunday, hours after all the drama, Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini released a statement distancing herself from reports that she had banned news channel eNCA from covering an event she was launching.
According to a statement by eNCA managing director and editor-in-chief Mapi Mhlangu, the team was filming Dlamini’s arrival at government’s official launch of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children on Sunday in KwaMagwaza in Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal, when the minister expressed her unhappiness at them filming her.
The team was then informed, they said, by her chief of staff, Palesa Mphamo, that they would not be allowed to enter the venue.
This unhappiness at being filmed did not extend to the SABC, which was allowed in. Mphamo allegedly told the eNCA team this was because they “know the parameters”.
The SA National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase questioned what these parameters were and described Dlamini’s actions as an abuse of authority.
“She definitely abused her power and abused her authority,” Mahlase said.
“We are quite disappointed, because this was a public space and a public event, and she deprived these journalists of the right to do their work.”
In eNCA’s statement, Mhlangu echoed her concerns.
“eNCA would like to put on record our deep concern at being barred from an event of national importance by a government minister,” it read.
“We reserve the right to ask questions of any publicly appointed representative. Indeed, we see it as our duty to do so. As a member of the media it is our constitutional right to operate freely and without harassment.
“To be gagged in this way is of great concern, particularly as we head towards an election year.”
The channel said it would engage with Dlamini’s department and the Government Communication and Information System to get assurances that this would not happen again.
However, the minister said in her statement on Sunday night it was all apparently some sort of misunderstanding.
“The minister wishes to categorically thank all journalists who attended the event,” said her spokesperson Mandla Tshabalala.
“The primary task of the department of women is to transform attitudes, views and repressive aspects of cultures. This requires that we develop and communicate messages that will bring about social behavioural change. For this, the media is a central partner, as we cannot reach the more than 55 million South African citizens alone.”
He said that in their attempt to transform attitudes and fight gender-based violence, the ministry worked without prejudice and bias.
“The minister further wishes to clarify that, earlier today, and due to time limits, an agreement was reached with reporters that since two interviews had been requested by the SABC and eNCA, the minister would conduct the interview with SABC reporters and the MEC for social development in the province, Ms Weziwe Thusi was to conduct the interview with eNCA reporters.
“Following the conclusion of the interviews, the minister was not part of any further engagements with journalists from either eNCA or the SABC.”
He said the minister had “come to learn of allegations that there was an exchange between officials of her office and reporters of eNCA”.
He said eNCA was making “a claim” that they were asked to leave by an official of her ministry.
“It must be categorically stated that Minister Dlamini did not ask any reporter to leave the event or ban any reporter from attending the event.”
Tshabalala added that Dlamini had “instituted a process to establish the facts of what transpired”.
He said she would never never instruct any reporter or journalist to leave any venue, especially when it was an event of government.
“The portfolio the minister is responsible for relies mainly on various media platforms to communicate and convey its key messages to the public.
Source: The Citizen