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SANEF bemoans growing trend of criminal attacks on journalists covering stories

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The callousness of criminals targeting journalists continues as reporters out on  the field covering various stories have been  attacked. These attacks show disregard for the important role that journalists play in bringing news to the people, especially during this election period.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is concerned by the impact of these attacks on media’s ability to represent all voices in storytelling. Since the date of the local government elections was announced, our newsrooms have sent out reporters across South Africa to ensure all voices are heard. Some areas have now become dangerous areas to report from as reporting crews get robbed and attacked.

In the latest attack, Eyewitness News reporters Thando Kubheka and Xan Dookey visited the Winnie Mandela section in Tembisa on an assignment to engage with the community and gauge its priority services ahead of elections. When they were packing up and ready to leave, a thief physically attacked Kubheka kicking her and robbing her of cellphone. The criminal then ran into a get-away car, which sped off.

Last Thursday, an SABC crew, all women, were held hostage in Buffelshoek village outside Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, where they fortunately escaped unharmed. Days earlier, a news reporter and camera operator from eTV were robbed at gunpoint in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

SANEF is concerned it is increasingly getting difficult and dangerous for news editors to deploy journalists to communities deserving coverage as the country leads up to election day on November 1.

Mahlatse Mahlase, group editor-in-chief at Eyewitness News, said it is worrying that news outlets must consider hiring security personnel for journalists to go out in the field to cover community issues on the ground.

“Newsrooms have allocated resources to highlight the issues facing communities ahead of the elections. However, it is increasingly becoming dangerous for our reporters.”

“We appeal to communities to be the first line of defence for journalists were possible, understanding that we are under siege from criminals,” she said.

SANEF believes that the safety of journalists is intertwined with the general safety and wellbeing of communities whose stories they are out to cover. Lack of safety compromises the working environment of journalists as well as their livelihoods. It also threatens media freedom.

We call on law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute the criminals who attack journalists. These attacks place enormous physical and emotional burdens on journalists who are already exposed to severe constraints under a deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Without journalists focusing on the plight of communities, local government stories will go unreported.

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

Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

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