16 April 2014

South Africa: Press Leaders Struggled to Get Visas for Congress

Photo: Gwen Lister
Mostefa Souag of Al Jazeera, right, and IPI's Alison Bethel McKenzie, centre, join a call on Egypt to free Al Jazeera staff on trial in Cairo.

The text of a resolution of the General Assembly of the International Press Institute expressing deep concern that South African diplomatic missions were obstructive in responding to visa applications, and calling on the government to explain why:

The members of the International Press Institute, meeting at their 63rd Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on April 14, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution expressing their deep concern about complaints received from IPI members in Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa and elsewhere that serious impediments were placed in their way when applying at South African diplomatic missions for visas to enter South Africa for the Congress.

Among the responses applicants received from the diplomatic missions were claims that applicants did not have sufficient funds to travel to South Africa despite having complied with all the documentary requirements, including producing bank references. Some delegates were also given limited-duration visas, which in some cases prevented them from attending all the sessions of the Congress and from taking part in the customary post-assembly tours of the country.

These delegates gained the impression from the conduct of the mission officials that the officials were trying to prevent them from attending the conference.

The Congress was held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Congress held by IPI in South Africa in 1994, which was opened by Nelson Mandela and then-President F.W. de Klerk and was attended by nearly 500 delegates.

By placing obstacles to the issuance of visas to delegates, South Africa lost an opportunity to showcase the country to journalists from a wide variety of foreign countries, as was done in 1994 with ascertainable positive economic results.

IPI members called on the South African government to explain the purpose was to adopt these obstructive tactics.

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