On 28 March 2020, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) expressed concern about the number of attacks and harassment of journalists during their coverage in the field, on day one (27 March 2020), of the lockdown.
SANEF has received several reports from journalists of having their equipment removed and of threats and harassment from law enforcement officers – both by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Services (SAPS).
The following cases were brought to our attention:
- A News24 journalist was shot at in Yeoville, Johannesburg.
- A Weekend Argus photographer had her cellphone confiscated in Capricorn Park, Cape Town.
Further, there have been a number of reports to the media of alleged assaults on citizens.
SANEF understands that the pandemic – that has taken the life of one South African (initial Health Ministry reports said two) and stands at 1170 infections – warrants firm action from the army and police to ensure lockdown restrictions are adhered to. However, we believe it is important that all security force members also strictly adhere to our president’s instructions against excessive force and abuse – and that as regards journalists, they are clearly informed about our right, as designated essential services workers, to be on the streets for our work. The media has a critical role to play to responsibly inform and educate the public about the spread and containment of the virus.
SANEF has raised the matter with the SAPS and senior officials have indicated that the attacks on journalists are unacceptable – and will not be tolerated. They will inform their troops and members.
SANEF is working with international media organisations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and local media NGO, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) to monitor the situation.
From our side, we are satisfied that the media has complied with regulations and that journalists in the field are equipped with the relevant press cards and permits to allow their free movement to cover all areas of the country.
Finally, SANEF calls on media organisations to make sure their staff are kitted with the relevant protective gear. We refer all media organisations to the safety tips included on our SANEF website https://sanef.org.za/coronavirus-covid-19-updates/. Further, we call on all media organisations to ensure, wherever possible, that they provide trauma counselling for journalists. SANEF notes the long term damaging effects of untreated trauma. SANEF will be compiling relevant information for our website.
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 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:
Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson, (083) 399-2852
Mary Papayya – Acting SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape SANEF Convenor (078) 041-9528
Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor (083) 582-1734
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404