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Sanef Condemns The Harassment Of Journalists At Prince Mshiyeni Hospital, in Durban

The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) welcomes today’s’ SABC Board statement in response to a story in the Sunday Times of 24th November 2019 titled: “SABC asks spooks to spy on staff” stating that it will not place journalists under surveillance. The SABC has stated that it does engage the State Security Agency (SSA) on several matters – such as the leaking of board minutes – but it has taken a clear decision never to place journalists under surveillance. We welcome this decision. While the SABC board has a right to protect the image and the interests of the public broadcaster, they equally have a responsibility to safeguard the SABC from political interference. It is for this reason that we are uncomfortable with the involvement of the SSA as it has been politicised in recent times and used as a weapon in factional political battles. The memory of the intimidation of SABC editors is still fresh on our minds as the state intelligence “swept” their offices recently in the name of protecting the SABC as “a national key point”. While the SABC board’s statement is reassuring by saying that journalists will not be under surveillance, Sanef finds it challenging to accept that the SSA will, at all times, act within those parameters. As SANEF, we are well aware of the chilling effect of security agents probing journalists working at a public broadcaster. There is too much scope for abuse. The threats to freedom of expression are apparent. We know that both Houses of Parliament have passed the Critical Infrastructure Bill. The bill replaces the National Key Points Act. The SABC is a national key point and will now be a critical infrastructure. The bill was sent to the President for signing at which point it will become an Act. Previously, SANEF made submissions on the bill arguing the unconstitutionality of provisions applied to journalists employed by an institution that is a national key point. We called for specific exceptions for editorial staff of the SABC from the provisions of the Critical Infrastructure Bill. Sadly, these were simply ignored by both Houses of Parliament. We will be writing to the President requesting him to consider SANEF’s submissions on the unconstitutionality of the bill and to refer it back to the National Assembly to reconsider these constitutional concerns. We trust this will not be necessary and urge the President to send the bill back to Parliament to address the existing constitutionality problems with it. We officially give notice to the SABC Board, the President, Parliament and all South Africans that we act to protect the public broadcaster, including through launching legal proceedings to challenge the constitutionality of the bill if necessary. Finally, we want to state that Mary Papayya, who is Sanef Acting Media Freedom Committee chairperson, is committed to media freedom. Her actions speak for itself as our acting media freedom chairperson. We also place it on record that she recused herself from all discussions on all SABC concerned matters at our council meeting on Saturday 23rd November 2019  – and has previously done so in all SABC matters generally. SANEF has a conflict of interest policy to be henceforth included as a specific clause in our SANEF constitution. It states that our Council members and sub-committee chairpersons may never comment on any deliberations and decisions taken on the media house where they are employed For The Record: 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. Sanef promotes excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research, education and training programmes. For More Info Please contact: Katy Katopodis – SANEF Deputy Chairperson – 082 805 7022 Moipone Malefane – SANEF Secretary-General 082 772 5861 Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor 083 582 1734 Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – 082 926 6404 Judy Sandison – SANEF Media Freedom Committee 082 571-3334 Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Media Freedom 073 404 1415 Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape SANEF Convenor, 0780419528