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SANEF Condemns The Harassment Of Journalists By Cape Town Metro Police

Journalists equipment damaged in the scuffle.
Cape Town Metro Police officer barring a journalist from covering the eviction of refugees at the Central Methodist Mission on Greenmarket Square. Pic: Unknown

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the Cape Town metro police officer who pushed and harassed journalists barring them from doing their job on Sunday, 2 March, 2020.

According to freelance reporter Wesley Fester, who recorded the incident, Newzroom Afrika’s reporter Athi Mthongana was shoved and assaulted by a member of the  City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement Department assigned to remove the refugees living around the Central Methodist Mission on Greenmarket Square on Sunday afternoon. There were other journalists whose equipment was also damaged in the scuffle.

SANEF also noted that last week, on Budget day, Wednesday, February 26, 2020, a SAPS police officer forcefully stopped Parliamentary reporter and photographer Jan Gerber from recording and reporting an incident where the police prevented DA interim and official leader of the opposition John Steenhuisen from entering Parliament ahead of the budget speech.

Gerber, a News24 journalist, was busy taking a cell phone video of this interaction when one brigadier then confronted him, saying he should turn his phone off because he was not “authorised” to make a video of the discussion. On the video, the brigadier in question pushed his phone away to prevent the recording.

Harassment of Journalists
Cape Town Metro Police officer barring a journalist from covering the eviction of refugees at the Central Methodist Mission on Greenmarket Square. Pic: Unknown

According to the police’s standing order 156, no police official may prevent a member of the media “taking photographs or making visual recordings”.

SANEF calls for decisive action against the metro police officers and the members of the SAPS who are identifiable breaking the law. They should be subjected to internal disciplinary action and held to account in terms of why they sought to censor the media.

SANEF is worried that these incidents where police and metro police officers randomly prevent journalists from using the tools of their trade to record and report stories are increasing. They have done so recently even inside courtrooms without the decision or the order of the presiding magistrate.

We are looking into engaging officials responsible for metro policing around the country to make the police’s standing order 156 possibly applicable to metro officers as well.

SANEF once again calls on the Ministers of Police as well as the Justice and Correctional Services in the security cluster to ensure that all state organs especially members of the SAPS and metro police protect journalists and stop this gross violation of the Constitution.

The prevention of journalists from covering stories infringes on the right of freedom of expression enshrined in Section 16 of our Constitution. Section 16 states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes “freedom of the press and other media” and “freedom to receive or impart information or ideas”. Therefore, the protection and encouragement of the free press, freedom of speech and the free flow of information are cornerstones.

Note for 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, 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
  • Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor 0825713334
  • 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 6404

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