Cape Town – National Assembly Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli says the media will not be restricted from doing their work during this year’s State of the Nation Address.
The Deputy Speaker said this when he briefed reporters on Parliament’s readiness ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s speech on Thursday.
The President will deliver this year’s State of the Nation Address on 9 February and the speech will be broadcast live on several channels, including SABC, at 7pm.
“I want to assure members [of the media] – there will be no restrictions for members to do their work around Parliament. I assume that the status quo remains.
“I don’t know where the idea of a media square comes from. The only place you are going to be quarantined in is if you get into the media bay. If you want to be elsewhere, you will be able to get there,” he said.
This was in response to concerns raised by members of the media that security officials had designated a media square to journalists that will be in the precinct to cover the State of the Nation Address and as well as the post speech activities.
The Deputy Speaker said there was no basis for the reported media restrictions on the day of SONA, unless there were extraordinary reasons that had not been communicated to Presiding Officers.
He said a meeting would be held with the Press Gallery Association – a body that represents Parliamentary journalists – to engage them further on their concerns.
“We will make arrangements so that people will come and communicate what we have communicated,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker said no extra ordinary security measures will be implemented at this year’s SONA event.
He said the accreditation centre had been moved to a venue outside the Parliamentary precinct due to a number of reasons.
This, the Deputy Speaker said, was due to the fact that there is an increased interest in this year’s event and that over the past two years, members of the public have wanted to come to Parliament to march.
Parliament ready to host SONA 2017
The Speaker said, meanwhile, that Parliament was ready to host this year’s important address.
“As usual, the preparations for the State of the Nation Address begin somewhere in the last quarter of the year before so that we get our ducks in a row and we are ready with the invitations to people who should be invited so that we sort out whatever needs sorting out from the systems that need to be placed and we deal with the lessons from previous State of the Nation Addresses and adjust accordingly where there is a need for that,” he said.
He said Parliament is looking forward to the speech as it is going to inform the debate that will unfold thereafter, which will officially mark the beginning of the work of Parliament.
The debate on the State of the Nation Address and the President’s reply to the debate will be followed by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget on 22 February 2017.