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SANEF condemns the shooting of Wits student journalists by the police   

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The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the callous shooting of female Student Journalists from the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) by members of the South African Police Service while they were recording the student protests over the financial exclusion of some students. We also condemn the shooting of an innocent man.

SANEF has learnt with sadness barely two days after the world commemorated International Women’s Day, Ms Nondumiso Lehutso and Ms Aphelele Buqwana were ordered by the police to run and leave the scene only to be shot and injured by the same police officer. The students were reporting for VowFM and Wits Vuvuzela.

“We were standing in front of the crowd between the SAPS members and the students, video recording the event with other journalists including the SABC team. An officer instructed us to run away from the scene. We noted shooting was about to take place and we should get away. We ran towards our Arts faculty building but someone closed the doors before we could get inside. I turned and the same officer that ordered us to run point his rifle towards us and he fired. I was hit twice in my thigh and butt cheeks,” Lehutso said.

Buqwana told a similar story of the police officer that ordered then to run but ended up shooting at them.  She insisted that the officers noted they were working and had the camera equipment with them but still shot at them. She said she was shot in the left thigh and was treated at the university’s health unit even though one of the journalists in the groups they were with did shout out saying “we are journalists”. The two student journalists waiting for hours for the ambulance to be transported to a hospital because their wounds were deep and needed medical attention. The students were later moved to Milpark Hospital from Wits Campus Health.

SANEF calls on the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and the National Police Commissioner to investigate the brutality of these SAPS officers who endangered the lives of all journalists that were reporting the student protests at Wits University.

We note that Journalists already face multiple risks, in war zones and, increasingly, in conflict-free countries. Year after year, dangers have increased for journalism itself. We appeal to the government to take action to protect journalists and to discipline the officers.

We call on state’s law enforcement agencies to honour their pledge to protect and to serve. They have a pressing obligation to defend journalism with all their strength against the many dangers that threaten it, of which gender-based violence and sexual bullying and attacks are a part. It is unthinkable that women journalists should endure twice the level of danger and must defend themselves on every front including malicious actions of SAPS officers.

Note to 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 and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113

Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852

Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972

Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957

Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610 9374

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022

Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]  Website: www.sanef.org.za

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