The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is deeply concerned by the attack on writer and columnist, Ismail Lagardien who was seriously injured covering the Kleinmond abalone protests on Monday 5th October 2020.
SANEF believes that every citizen should be seriously troubled by such reports as journalists go out in the field to tell community stories, both fairly and accurately. When a frustrated community turns its anger on journalists, it has severe consequences for our democracy. The media must reflect all sides in conflict situations – and the public must respect the essential role of the press.
Lagardien was seriously injured on Monday evening after protests erupted in the Overberg town of Kleinmond following the arrest of five alleged perlemoen poachers. Lagardien is now in hospital awaiting surgery for a broken jaw sustained when a brick flew in through the passenger window.
Relaying events via text message on Tuesday morning (he was unable to speak audibly due to his injury), he wrote: “I saw a roadblock and tyres being laid out, so I drove through, towards the informal settlements to find out more.”
At the time he had his equipment and camera out. “That’s when the rock came through the passenger window,” he said. Speaking from his hospital bed on Monday night, Mr Lagardien told Daily Maverick his jaw was fractured, and he had several teeth missing.
While at this stage it cannot be ascertained for sure if Lagardien was in fact targeted randomly as a motorist or specifically because he is a member of the media, this would not be the first time that journalists appear to have become the scapegoat of misdirected anger from some members of the public. These incidents include:
- In February KayaFM journalist Gavin Emmanuel was assaulted and injured while covering a service delivery protest in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria. The township had come to a standstill after main roads were blockaded with rubble and burning tyres.
- In Embalenhle, Secunda, in February, freelance journalist Desmond Latham, as well as a female staff member from Frayintermedia and female UNICEF employee were assaulted allegedly by members of a local taxi association.
- Criminals robbed an eNCA reporter, Xoli Mngambi and a crew on assignment in Mamelodi East of their equipment in February.
- Three journalists were held up at gunpoint and robbed of their belongings while covering a World Aids Day event in Khayelitsha last December.
- In April, a SABC Durban news crew while out in the field reporting on the impact of the lockdown on rural communities in Ulundi, KwaZulu Natal, were blocked and threatened by a group, not related to their news story. Community members threatened to burn the SABC news vehicle.
One person has been arrested for public violence in Kleinmond, near the town of Hermanus, following the protests that erupted on Monday.
SANEF believes that attacks on media professionals are often perpetrated by organised opportunistic criminals, crime groups, militia and security personnel, making local journalists among the most vulnerable.
We call on every citizen to protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression for all. Promoting the safety of journalists and combatting impunity for those who attack them are central elements of democracy.
We call on law-enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate these incidents and to bring perpetrators to book. It is only through the decisive and firm actions of state organs that criminals and members of society will stop attacking journalists.
SANEF is hoping that all traumatised journalists will receive counselling assistance from their employers. We wish Mr Lagardien a speedy recovery.
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
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404
Email: [email protected] Website: www.sanef.org.za