05 February 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the unconstitutional and chilling action taken against journalists at the Durban City Hall today allegedly on the instructions of the office of Durban Mayor, Zandile Gumede.
The journalists were invited to a Democratic Alliance (DA) media briefing on alleged fraud and corruption by city officials.
Journalists waiting for their colleagues to arrive while seated in the DA caucus room were suddenly approached by 8 Metro police officers, armed with guns, and asked to vacate the premises. Police officers stated that they had to leave as it was an instruction from Mayor Zandile Gumede’s office.
Further chaos erupted outside the gate when journalists were prevented from entering the building. Tensions ran high when the journalists questioned why they were being evicted. They were manhandled by armed security guards, shoved and shown the door. Journalists from both newspapers and the broadcast media were left shaken after the incident.
“We were told by Metro Police that the Mayor had instructed them to remove journalists from the caucus room as we had no permission to be there.
There were 8 armed officers waiting outside the caucus room to escort us out. We were afraid. As we were packing up our gear, we heard a loud commotion outside and found our colleagues being manhandled by officers,” said one journalist.
The organizers eventually held the press briefing on the steps of City Hall surrounded by armed Metro Police officers.
SANEF finds this incident very disturbing and calls on the City leaders to investigate the matter so that it is never repeated. Denying journalists entry into a press briefing is unconstitutional and denies the public the right to information.
Police monitoring of a press briefing is also an intimidatory tactic that we find undemocratic. This takes us back to the dark days of the terror leveled against journalists by apartheid security police.
SANEF is concerned that the attacks against journalists in the region are escalating and calls on political parties and those elected to lead not to use journalists as pawns in their political infighting and/ or to cover up corruption. In the run up to the elections the KZN region is always a hot spot that targets journalists.
Should any person, organization or political party feel genuinely aggrieved by a story or any actions taken by the media, they should follow the correct channels in addressing their grievances.
For more information contact:
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director 082 926 6404
Mary Papayya – Chair: SANEF Media Freedom 082 379 4957
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convener: 082 571 3334
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Media Freedom 073 404 1415