News channel eNCA announced on Saturday 14 December that it had taken a “principled decision to stop covering” the EFF People’s Assembly taking place over the weekend.
eNCA suspends media coverage
eNCA explains that this decision was taken after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) “barred several news organisations from covering the event.”
According to the SA National Editors Forum (SANEF) some of the banned outlets include the Daily Maverick, Scorpio, amaBhungane, Rapport and Caxton publications; among others.
The eNCA confirmed that it had pulled all editorial and technical teams from the EFF People’s Assembly. Editor Jeremy Maggs explains:
“This decision, not taken lightly, is an attack on the media freedom in the country and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
He added that the news outlet takes a “firm stand on media freedom by standing in solidarity with those organisations that have been barred from attending.”
Media freedom debate sparked
The eNCA decision to withdraw follows after the EFF said in a press statement that out of the more than 600 RSVP’s received by media representatives, only 150 personnel would be allowed to attend.
Earlier today, political analyst Eusebius Mckaiser said on social media that “the slide towards autocracy is a SLIDE, and if you’re not vigilant about flags along the way, you’ll regret your nonchalance when you one day come to realise it is too late to speak out.”
“Do so when it matters. This criticism applies to EFF, Cricket South Africa and everything and everyone else in between subject to media coverage.”
” eNCA knew about the ban of these media houses for a while now but continued to send its staff to the conference. They continued to broadcast in the morning; someone powerful & opposed to EFF must have seen the broadcast and made a phone call… And the rest of history.”
Daily Maverick and amaBhungane responds
The Daily Maverick confirmed that its team will continue to report on the EFF People’s Assembly, despite the media ban.
“We, at Daily Maverick, believe that the EFF’s ‘ban’ is unconstitutional and intend to test it in court in the new year. […] We also firmly believe that our colleagues from other media houses should cover the EFF congress as vigorously as they can. It is, in our opinion, the media’s role to shine a light on society; including the parts who openly wish us harm and advocate for our demise.”
Commenting on Malema’s claim that the SA media doesn’t cover EFF events, Daily Maverick editor Richard Poplak said on Twitter that he personally attended eight EFF press conferences and election rallies. He added:
“I was even shot at in the streets of Alex with the EFF. I have attended 3 birthday celebrations. Julius Malema is a liar.”
amaBhungane received no response from the EFF when asked if representatives may attend the EFF People’s Assembly.
The independent investigative non-profit said in a statement that they are “committed to doing stories that are accurate and fair, expose wrongdoing and empower people to hold power to account.”
“We serve no-one’s agenda. We regret Malema’s remarks, which seem intended to inoculate his followers against the exposure he fears. They show reckless disregard for the potential to incite violence. They will fan the loudening online — and we fear offline — hate campaigns experienced by journalists.”