The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is deeply concerned by the increasing number of criminal attacks targeting journalists covering stories in the field. SANEF believes that every citizen should be seriously troubled by reports, including the most recent one when eNCA reporter Xoli Mngambi and a crew on assignment in Mamelodi East were robbed of their equipment on Wednesday afternoon.
This incident happened barely a week after 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 Wednesday’s incident, Mngambi and his team were robbed at gunpoint by criminals who fled with two news cameras and a tripod while they were filming a feature.
“The three assailants, with one wielding a gun in our faces, accosted and shoved us inside one of the rooms of the private clinic which was being filmed, while two other robbers took the crew’s equipment, loading it into their grey VW Polo getaway vehicle. They sped off into the township afterwards, taking with them the beautiful and heart-warming story of the nurses, that had just been filmed,” he said.
Mngambi posted on social media a picture of one of the tripods the robbers did not take as well as a short and hurried video clip, filmed from a distance. A grey VW Polo without licence plates, belonging to the three gun-wielding robbers, can be seen driving off.
They have opened a case of robbery at the Mamelodi East Police Station. eNCA said that “First Take” anchor Mngambi, producer Koketso Dlongolo, and camera operators Mbudzeni Bulasigobo and Gift Shabalala were at the Wellness Today Clinic when they were robbed.
These incidents are the latest in a string of attacks on journalists. These include:
- In Embalenhle, Secunda, on February 6, 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.
- Three journalists were held up at gunpoint and robbed of their belongings while covering a World Aids Day event in Khayelitsha last December.
- A reporter was robbed of a cellphone after being surrounded by a group of men near a protest in Parkwood, Cape Town, in 2018.
SANEF is aware that there are other incidents, but not all are brought to the attention of the forum. SANEF believes that every citizen has to ensure that the right to freedom of opinion and expression for all is protected. Promoting the safety of journalists and combatting impunity for those who attack them are central elements as regards SANEF’s support for press freedom on all media platforms.
Attacks on media professionals are often perpetrated in non-conflict situations by organised opportunistic criminals, crime groups, militia and security personnel, making local journalists among the most vulnerable.
As Judge Daisy Molefe of the Equality Court stated in October last year: “It is incumbent on all organs of state, including the judiciary, to not only have regard to but to take positive steps to protect the safety and independence of journalists.”
We call on law-enforcement agencies not to ignore these incidents and to thoroughly investigate them 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.
Finally, we want to note that while these “real life” attacks are deeply worrying, the online attacks against journalists are also deeply concerning. We also call on journalists to follow the relevant codes within their news environments when communicating on social media. We call on all leaders of society including government, political parties and the platform operators to fight against all attacks on journalists.
Note for Editors: 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
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 6404This form is currently undergoing maintenance. Please try again later.