Pretoria: 28 March 2014—A team of SAPS communicators led by the National Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, yesterday met with a delegation of the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), led by its Chairperson, Mpumelelo Mkhabela. This was the first such meeting since the appointment of General Phiyega. The engagement followed a request by Sanef to discuss issues of mutual concern which included police-media relations on the ground, availability and/or non-availability of communicators, as well as interaction between police and journalists at crime scenes.
The meeting agreed that a high-level committee, comprising of senior SAPS and Sanef members, would be established to continue engagements with a view, among others, to improve police-media relations. This team will also be responsible for drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between SAPS and Sanef. Both parties agreed that SAPS will consider suggestions to enhance the SAPS Standing Order 156, which deals inter alia with police procedures regarding media liaison, submitted by Sanef in 2010 to the previous SAPS management team.
The high-level committee would also ensure involvement by both Sanef and the SAPS in mutual training of police officers and journalists to help them understand their complimentary roles in serving the public interest. To this end, both the SAPS and Sanef agreed that the practice where some police members were alleged to have irresponsibly and without valid reason deleted pictures from media photographers was wrong, undesirable and should cease.
In the same vein, both organisations called on journalists to appreciate the difficult nature of policing violent situations and to respect as well as cooperate with crime scene commanders as related to the preservation of crime scenes to avoid possible contamination of scenes by journalists.
“Our duty is to serve and protect our communities. We recognise that we must therefore regularly account to the public about how we go about policing in partnership with communities. I welcome this process of re-establishing cordial, professional and mutually beneficial relations between Sanef and ourselves because I am of the view that the media has an important role to play in assisting us in getting communities behind our crime-fighting initiatives,” said General Phiyega.
Mkhabela said: “The meeting was fruitful and a firm foundation has been laid for building better working relations between the police and media.”