Parliament somersaults on the banning of journalist

THE journalist who breached an unknown protocol by speaking to a parliamentary official off-the-record might have his accreditation revoked. But he won't be banned from Parliament.

Sowetan reported yesterday that Parliament's secretary, Zingile Dingani, had written to the Independent Group editors, asking why he should not withdraw Deon de Lange's accreditation for breaching "protocol".

Parliament's spokesman, Luzuko Jacobs, claimed yesterday that revoking De Lange's accreditation was not "a ban". Jacobs said if De Lange's accreditation was revoked he could still cover Parliament using a "level of accreditation" given to freelancers.

Parliament's Press Gallery Association co-chairmen Joylene van Wyk and Donwald Pressly said it was "absurd" to come up with a rule preventing journalists from interviewing party staff and employees of Parliament.

"This would imply that interaction with ANC, DA, Cope, IFP, ACDP, Azapo, Minority Front, APC and PAC staff would be proscribed. It means that power struggles within any of the parties could not be reported on," the two said in a statement.

Stellenbosch University journalism lecturer Simphiwe Sesanti said: "You can't have a situation in a free country where people are being restricted from speaking off-the-record ..."

Meanwhile, ANC parliamentary spokesman Moloto Mothapo said the ANC was not investigating De Lange's source. "We can't order Parliament to conduct an investigation. Chief whip Mathole Motshekga only asked Parliament to conduct an investigation."