10 July 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the attacks on Newzroom Afrika’s reporter, Mweli Masilela and the harassment of Independent journalists, Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi Wa Africa.
Mweli Masilela was attacked while out on a story in Vosman near Emalahleni. He was violently accosted by a group of men while investigating the death of a 16-year-old boy who allegedly fell into an open mine pit.
Masilela was accompanied by community members who had raised concerns about open mine pits. The men who attacked him forcefully took his camera and deleted his footage. They also took his car keys. Eventually, he got his equipment back and was told to leave the area immediately.
SANEF believes the attack in itself is shocking however we are also very disturbed to hear that the police at Vosman police station initially refused to assist Masilela. He was turned away twice. The first time he was told that because he had no visible injuries, he could not report a case. This despite there being witnesses to the assault. Then when he returned he was told that he should go to court to get a protection order against the people who attacked him. It was only after Newzroom Afrika management escalated the incident to provincial and national police spokespeople that Masilela got assistance.
The initial police reaction suggests that only if journalists are beaten – with visible injuries – can they expect assistance. This is unacceptable. We know that many community news organisations suffer this kind of treatment and don’t have the luxury of access to provincial and national officials in order to ensure a case is opened.
On another matter brought to our attention after a reach out from our office, journalist Mzilikazi Wa Afrika said he and colleague Piet Rampedi, from Independent Media, have lodged a formal complaint with the Office of the Inspector General Of Intelligence as they believe they are being followed and their phones are being bugged. Mzilikazi Wa Afrika stated, “We went to the Bramley Police Station to open a case of intimidation and harassment but the police told us it is not a criminal matter if a person follows you and takes photos of you and your vehicle…. You need to be physically pushed about”. Rampedi and Wa Afrika believe that the harassment is linked to their reporting on the so called “rogue unit” at the SA Revenue Services (SARS).
SANEF notes with concern the ongoing attacks, harassment and intimidation of journalists. We call on all elected leaders as well as the law enforcement authorities to take seriously the safety of journalists. We believe that any incident that hampers the safety of journalists must be taken seriously.
For more information contact:
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director 082 926 6404
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Media Freedom 073 404 1415