The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) wishes to strongly condemn on 11 September 2019 the escalating harassment and abuse of journalists in the country.
SANEF has learnt with sadness of an incident on Tuesday where Journalists Alex Mitchley of News24, Hanti Otto of Netwerk24 and Pule Letshwiti from etv were approached and threatened by a state witness in the Nicholas Ninow case.
Ninow is the man who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to raping a seven-year-old at a Dros restaurant last year. He pleaded guilty to rape, possession of drugs and defeating the ends of justice — but pleaded not guilty to assault.
According to Mitchley, the witness approached the journalists very angrily outside the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday during a tea break, asking why media houses named him. It was explained that there was no court order not to name the witness as he testified in an open court. He then looked at the journalists and said, in Afrikaans, that he was going to slit their throats even making a throat-slitting gesture with his thumb while smiling and laughing.
“I told him to leave us alone and would inform the court of his threats. He tried following to apologize but I told him to get away from me as he had just threatened our lives,” Mitchley said.
The witness came to court to confront journalists as he finished testifying on Monday.
The harassment of journalists, not just by authorities and politicians, but lately general members of the public in protest areas, is a phenomenon that has prompted growing concerns for SANEF in recent months.
SANEF notes that while retaliation for the content of professional output is common to all journalists, female journalists face an additional burden in that they are also attacked purely based on their gender.
SANEF wishes to caution against impunity for threats of any nature and crimes against the media because it fuels and perpetuates the cycle of violence and the resulting 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.
On Economic Freedom Front (EFF) leader Julius Malema
SANEF also notes the raging debate on the matter of 702 journalists, Barry Bateman, and his uttering of an unsavoury word in public allegedly aimed at EFF leader Julius Malema. SANEF notes the concerns raised by the supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). We also note that employer Prime Media has apologised and has launched an investigation into the matter.
SANEF does not condone the unprofessional behaviour on the part of any journalist. However, we believe this should not be used as an excuse to trigger an all-out attack on the media and journalists as a collective. Rather than a verdict being debated on social media, we ask that this matter be dealt with via the media house concerned.
For more information please contact:
Sam Mkokeli – SANEF Media Freedom Chairperson, 082 084 2051
Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom 082 379 4957
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director 082 926 6404