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SANEF denounces incidents of aggression and intimidation towards journalists

5 (2)

22 September 2023

The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) is disturbed by the recent incidents of aggression and violence against journalists while they are doing their job.

The first incident unfolded on Tuesday, 19 September, where the security personnel at Standard Bank, manhandled Daily Maverick reporter Lerato Mutsila while she was on duty. Mutsila was covering the Extinction Rebellion protest at the bank’s Johannesburg headquarters.

The incident involved the unacceptable deletion of photos and videos from Ms. Mutsila’s phone and her violent removal from the bank’s premises by security personnel.

We note that a charge of assault and unlawful deprivation of property has been filed with the South African Police Service (SAPS) by the journalist in response to this unacceptable behaviour.

Ms. Mutsila says her attempts to identify herself as a member of the media were ignored. Instead, she was subjected to intimidation, and physical aggression, and forcibly removed from the building by at least four male security guards, acting upon the instruction of the bank’s group manager for Internal Protection Services.

SANEF has been in contact with the leadership of Standard Bank, the sponsors of the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards, and will soon be meeting with them to iron out these issues. We are encouraged by the willingness of Standard Bank to resolve the matter.

In another incident, eNCA reporter Hloni Mtimkulu was physically manhandled and pushed out of a South African Post Office branch while she was interviewing government grant beneficiaries on their recent experience with the non-payment of grants.

The post office is a public institution and journalists have a right to do their jobs. The Post Office cannot dictate to beneficiaries who they should be talking to.

SANEF will also write to Minister of Communications Mondli Gungubele, to express its displeasure at the behaviour of the staff at the Post Office.

In Makhanda, our colleague Anna Majavu – who works for Grocotts Mail – was harassed while covering a case at the local Magistrates’ Court.

SANEF fully supports the Advisory Board for Grocott’s Mail in expressing its condemnation of the attack on Majavu – who encountered threats, harassment, and physical violence.

We reiterate the point that members of the public, who are unhappy with certain reporting have channels available to them to express their unhappiness. The Press Ombudsman is there to adjudicate any dispute between members of the public and a publication – free of charge just as the BCCSA adjudicates complaints relating to broadcasters.

We encourage communities to utilise these available platforms.

In conclusion, SANEF believes that the safety of our journalists and media freedom are fundamental democratic principles that all peace-loving South Africans should safeguard.

Any form of violence, intimidation, or threats against journalists is anathema to the South African constitution.

The behaviour of the staff at the Post Office demonstrated an attitude that has become all too familiar for most South Africans whenever they have to deal with public institutions.

That is an attitude of rudeness, disrespect, and even violence. Such behaviour is unacceptable and runs contrary to the principles of a free and democratic society. It is a serious infringement of press freedom, which is enshrined in the Constitution.

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 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

Nwabisa Makunga – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 555-1972

Tshamano Makhadi – Treasurer-General (082) 223 0621

Makhudu Sefara – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (079) 177-2134

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

Dr. Glenda Daniels – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (083) 229-9708

Rochelle De Kock – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (072) 969-8028

Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.sanef.org.za