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SANEF Concerned about the Ongoing Escalation in Death Threats and Harassment of Journalists on Social Media

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is deeply concerned by the increasing trend of death threats and social media harassment of journalists by right-wing groups and their supporters.

SANEF notes that such harassment against journalists by certain right-wing linked elements and groups in the country is a bid to silence them or stop them from investigating their activities.

SANEF wishes to caution against the threats of any nature and crimes against the media that continue with impunity.

These fuels and perpetuates a cycle of violence. Consequently, the self-censorship deprives society of information and further affects press freedom. It also directly impacts the United Nations human rights-based efforts to promote peace, security, and sustainable development.

Recently, News Editor Daniel Friedman of the Citizen Newspaper was forced to abandon social media platforms including twitter due to a barrage of threats on his life and a relentless campaign meant to paint him as an unfair and biased journalist.

Mr Friedman says he has been targeted and falsely accused by specific individuals of releasing a video in 2015 making fun of the torture and murder of farmers, which was debunked by his employer The Citizen in an article that acknowledged that the said was manufactured. The campaign against Mr Friedman escalated and Mr Friedman received hundreds of abusive messages, including death threats and antisemitic hate speech.

Other social media claims made against Mr Friedman include:

  • That he allegedly called for the death of right-wing South Africans which he denies as a “willful misinterpretation” of an edited version of a joke he made at an Ahmed Kathrada Foundation event. Mr Friedman is also a Professional Comedian.
  • That he called all Afrikaans people “racist scum” which Mr Friedman describes as “baseless and untrue”.
  • Being accused of an attack on Afrikaners, in general, resulting in calls for the public to “make an example” of him and used many other expletives that suggest he should be attacked and harmed.
  • Some social media users starting a campaign demanding that his employer, The Citizen Newspaper, dismiss Mr Friedman.

SANEF has also noted that The Citizen Newspaper has suspended Mr Friedman to investigate whether he breached its social media policy. SANEF will await the outcome of the process.

SANEF wishes to remind all political formations and interest groups to use the services of the Press Ombuds’ office, the Press Council and or the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) when aggrieved or unfairly treated by the media. It is better to have an incorrect report properly investigated and sanctions imposed than resorting to mob justice through social media and creating a toxic atmosphere of conspiracy-mongering and hatemongering towards the journalists and media in general.

Note for 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, education and training programmes.

For more information contact

  • Katy Katopodis – Acting SANEF Chairperson, (082) 805-7022
  • Mary Papayya – Acting SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
  • Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor 0825713334
  • Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
  • Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape SANEF Convenor, 0780419528
  • Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor 083 582 1734
  • Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – 082 926 6404

For all Media Ethics and Credibility Inquiry queries and submissions –  [email protected]