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Hands off journalists! SANEF tells Crime Intelligence division

SANEF questioning the legality of the alleged surveillance of Journalists. Pic by Gouta Flikr.com


The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) strongly condemns the threats, intimidation and bugging of investigative journalists by the Crime Intelligence division of the South African Police Service. SANEF calls on the SAPS to immediately cease the surveillance of journalists.

The latest journalist to be threatened is the Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm, who has become a target of a Crime Intelligence investigation into the leaking of documents. Thamm was the victim of a house burglary this week during which her work laptops were stolen. Other valuables were left untouched.

Thamm reported on documents that were submitted in court papers by former Crime Intelligence head Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs. The fact that the SAPS has confirmed a formal investigation into leakages to journalists is underway creating the unavoidable suspicion that Thamm’s break-in is linked to the investigation into her sources.

Thamm is in possession of internal communication from the SAPS confirming that her reporting on court papers by Jacobs is deemed as a “leak” to the media. When she challenged SAPS spokesperson Vish Naidoo about this, he responded as such: “The fact that this latest document was leaked to yourself reinforces the need to investigate these leaks, but this time with even greater urgency.”

This is nothing but a blatant threat to Thamm and other journalists that they will be investigated.

This comes after News24 journalist Jeff Wicks also received numerous reports from police sources that he was under surveillance by Crime Intelligence. Wicks and Thamm have reported extensively on the fallout in the upper echelons of Crime Intelligence.

News24 lawyer Willem de Klerk has written to the acting head of CI Lieutenant-General Yolisa Mokgabudi questioning the legality of the alleged surveillance of Wicks.

We welcome the undertaking by Mokgabudi to investigate the illegal bugging of the News24 journalist. It is an illegal act because Judge Bess Nkabinde, who is the designated judge charged with authorising legal interceptions in terms of the Regulation of Interception and Communication Act (RICA), has stated that she has not authorised the surveillance of a News24 journalist.

We hope that Mokgabudi’s investigation will not only focus on the illegal bugging, but also on the extent to which whistleblowers and the media’s sources have been compromised by the illegal activity.

This has undermined the rule of law and is a stark warning of the dangers to the democratic future promoted by the Constitution.

SANEF will write to Police Minister Bheki Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa to request that the culprits who have abused their positions of power to order such illegal surveillance of journalists are seriously dealt with. We want to see Minister Cele bringing order within the Crime Intelligence division and stopping them from targeting journalists in any surveillance because journalists’ sources must be protected.

Wicks and Thamm are investigative journalists in the country covering the most volatile battle in the SAPS — within the Crime Intelligence division — who are targeted. The coverage of the contestation for power in the key Crime Intelligence division of the SAPS is in the public interest, considering the massive impact it has on the lives of the citizens of South Africa.

Journalists cannot keep quiet and not investigate members of the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies because of the potential to enable a criminal underworld to thrive and survive across South Africa.

It is not by accident that about 40 senior SAPS members, including former National Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and Deputy Police Commissioner Bonang Mgwenya, are facing criminal charges and that Richard Mdluli, the former Crime Intelligence head is behind bars. The brave work of journalists contributed to this.

Journalists must continue to hold the country’s law enforcement to account if leaders are acting outside the law. By covering the battle at the top and probe the state of the SAPS, journalists are contributing towards bringing stability in the lives of ordinary SAPS members so that they can focus on fighting crime, instead of suffering at the hands of intransigent and corrupt leaders.

Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113

Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852

Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972

Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957

Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – (082) 610 9374

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022

Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]  Website: www.sanef.org.za

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