The SA National Editors Forum and the Presidency are thrashing out details for the revival of the Presidential Press Corps (PPC), hoping to avoid the controversy sparked by the plan previously, writes Andile Makholwa.

 

Earlier plans to restrict access to the President to members of the PPC, who would be required to get security clearance, appear to have been dropped. 

The idea of the PPC was first mooted at the Sanef / Cabinet Indaba in May 2001 as an attempt to enhance media access to the President, ministers and top government officials, but failed to get off the ground amid accusations it amounted to embedded journalism.

There were also criticisms over the demand for security clearances on journalists tasked with covering the President.
Sanef met President Kgalema Motlanthe on November 1, and agreed to revive the idea.   Jovial Rantao, the forum’s chair, said a meeting with the presidency would be held on December 1 to discuss details.  He said he would comment after the meeting.

Spokesperson for the Presidency, Thabo Masebe, said the previous form of the PPC created problems, and the concept “Presidential Press Corps” had negative connotations. He said the concept was loosely used to refer to a team of journalists mainly tasked to report on the President.

He said the revival of the structure would have to take a different form, but it would be up to the editors to decide how.
“If we were to revive the PPC as it was conceptualised, it will not work because it would mean the President would have to brief the media on a weekly basis,” he said.

Masebe said that the government was “committed to improve access to the President, cabinet ministers and senior government officials” and would hold regular briefings to update the media on government issues.   

He said the previous arrangement that only registered PPC members would be allowed to attend the presidential briefings will no longer apply, but appealed to the media to have a dedicated team to cover the Presidency.

On security clearances of journalists, Masebe said there was no need for such elaborate mechanisms, adding that it would be undesirable for the PPC to create a situation of embedded journalism.