2nd Floor, 20 Baker Street, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2169

Sanef calls for police and prosecuting authorities to withdraw Section 205 subpoenas

Sanef urgently calls on the police and prosecuting authorities to withdraw the ill-advised and unjustified Section 205 subpoenas served on two eTV journalists following the broadcast last week of an interview in which two anonymous men made certain threats against foreign soccer fans during the 2010 World Cup. The journalists are due to appear in court on Monday, 25 January.

Sanef reiterates its strong opposition to the use of this legislation in the same way in which it was abused in the apartheid era when it was employed to force journalists into revealing their confidential sources. Sanef has been vigorously campaigning for the amendment of the legislation as it pertains to journalists and is in fact in ongoing discussions with the Government on the matter.

Sanef entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the authorities that outlines a process to be followed in the event of the police or the prosecuting authorities seeking confidential information from journalists. The purpose of the MOU is to avoid journalists being arrested and prosecuted for refusing to reveal confidential sources. In this instance, the authorities bluntly ignored and continues to ignore the MOU. This is very disturbing.

It is of vital importance that journalists make use of and protect confidential sources – for the effective functioning of journalists and in the interests of the public’s right to be informed. In this instance the police have already arrested one of the people interviewed by eTV, apparently through good old fashioned police work. The police are also reported to be on the verge of arresting the second person interviewed by eTV, again apparently due to normal police investigation. These developments make the actions by the police against the eTV journalists even more superfluous and unnecessary.