The proposal for the creation of the Presidential Press Corps was formalised at the Indaba between editors and senior journalists under the umbrella of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) and Cabinet in May 2001.
The Way Forward document adopted at the Indaba spells out a set of commitments on better informing the public: improving government communication; improvements in the performance of the media; international issues; joint government and media initiatives; and deepening freedom of expression.
To quote the document’s preamble:
"The Cabinet-SANEF Indaba represented a historic moment in the relationship between government and the media.
"Delegates noted a spirit of robust, candid and open dialogue between government and the media. Notwithstanding the opportunities lost in not having met earlier, we believe the lesson is that dialogue should become a continuous and ongoing feature of our democracy.
"This dialogue is vital for the sustenance of our democracy and the ideals of our constitution and founding settlement.
"The significance of the indaba was reflected in the presence of the President and Cabinet Ministers, plus a large number of the country's editors and senior media professionals."
"Both sides accepted the challenges of democratic transformation in South Africa, embraced the constitution as the central reference point of our dialogue and engaged on issues of public interest and national importance."
The Presidential Press Corps is but one of the initiatives that emerged from the Indaba.
Operationally, the intention in establishing the Press Corps is to provide members with as much unhindered access to the President as possible. It is essential that all necessary security procedures are followed.
Editors of news organisations and journalists who have been nominated by editors to serve on the Press Corps, have agreed to apply for Top Secret security clearance.
At a recent meeting of the corps, the head of security in the Presidency pertinently emphasised the safety of the President and assuaged concerns among journalists that the security process could be abused.
This discussion characterised the frank and honest nature of the interaction in the build-up to the formation of the Press Corps.
Government and the media are working collaboratively to oversee the establishment of the Corps. To date, neither government nor the Presidential Press Corps Interim Committee, established by the journalists themselves, has received objections to the security clearance process, from nominees to the Corps or their media houses.
In the light of the Sunday Independent report, government and the Presidential Press Corps Interim Committee will meet next week to establish and resolve any areas of concern that may exist, including around privacy and constitutionality.
The Presidential Press Corps is scheduled to begin on 30 April. The modus operandi and the evolution of the Corps will be defined through consultations between government and the Corps consistent with the spirit of the Cabinet-SANEF Indaba.
The Corps has representatives from:
- The Citizen
- Independent Newspapers
- Business Day
- Natal Witness
- Die Volksblad
- Sunday Times
- Sunday World
- City Press
- Financial Mail
- Jacaranda fm
For further information please contact:
Director: International and Media Liaison, GCIS
Cell: 082 33 88 783
Chairperson, Presidential Press Corps Interim Committee
Cell: 083 290 5769
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS) and Presidential Press Corps Interim Committee