The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the threats made against a correspondent journalist working on a story for the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror.
The community newspapers in Limpopo have been investigating a story on the National Lotteries Commission’s funding of a non-profit organisation, Vyeboom Youth Development in the province.
According to Anton van Zyl, publisher of the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror, their correspondent received a threatening phone call on Thursday 23 July 2020 from a person telling him to stop enquiring about the activities at the project. He was told that if he did not stop, he would be followed and hurt.
Van Zyl said the correspondent had made enquiries requesting information about the non-profit which has received at least R15 million from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) in the past few years. He said the matter was reported to the local police and a case of intimidation is being investigated.
“We don’t take kindly to such threats to our journalists, and we view it as a direct attack on media freedom and the constitutional values that we hold dear. The only way we can effectively respond to such threats is to shine a light on what is happening and try and establish why people would want to hide the truth,” Van Zyl said.
SANEF believes it is inexcusable for individuals to threaten the journalist. We trust that the police will give this matter the urgency it deserves and identify the culprits.
Further, SANEF is disturbed by the reluctance of the National Lotteries Commission to release information about NPOs that it is funding despite the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel’s clear statement in reply to a Parliamentary question last month that the NLC must make the list of non-profit organisations that it funds available.
For 18 years, the NLC has published these and other details on projects it funds as part of its annual reports. But last year it did an about-turn and excluded this information from its 2018-19 report.
SANEF and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) are proceeding with a court application which challenges the constitutionality of Regulation 8 of the Lotteries Act to ensure that it is either set aside in its entirety or amended to bring it in line with the Constitution. Regulation 8 limits the disclosure of information on grant applications and grants themselves. Regulation 8(3) renders any person who discloses and publishes such information guilty of a criminal offence. This prohibition extends even to situations in which the disclosure or publication of information would be in the public interest – for instance, in order to bring to light allegations of corruption or maladministration regarding the manner in which public funds are being spent.
Our legal counsel is of the view that the current wording of Regulation 8 is an unjustifiable limitation on the right to freedom of expression, and that journalists are at risk of facing future litigation or criminal complaints from the NLC. The broad aim of the legal challenge is to shield news publications and journalists, who may want to publish NLC grant information in future, from being subject to litigation or criminal complaints.
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:
Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson, (083) 399-2852
Katy Katopodis – SANEF Deputy Chairperson, (082) 805-7022
Moipone Malefane – SANEF Secretary-General (082) 772-5861
Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape Convenor (078) 041-9528
Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Gauteng Regional Convenor (083) 582-1734
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404