The South African National Editors’ Forum condemns the wanton total destruction of Karabo FM, a community radio station in Sasolburg, by two armed men on Saturday. The men stormed into the building at 9pm and ordered a radio presenter, his two studio guests and a female security guard out of the building into a nearby shed before sprinkling petrol in and around the station and setting it on fire. They did not say why they were destroying the station and no one has claimed responsibility, station manager, Dika Kheswa, said. The arsonists, who wore balaclavas, stole cellphones from their victims but did not harm them.
Sanef is deeply shocked at this vicious physical attack on a media institution which operates at the heart of a local community. Not only is this an attack on media freedom but also on the means by which people gain access to information about community affairs. Though there have been threats levelled at newspapers, this is the first attack resulting in the destruction of a media outlet in the new democracy founded in 1994 in South Africa.
The director of the Wits Radio Academy, Professor Franz Krüger, described it as an appalling attack on media freedom, committed with great impunity. It highlights the extent to which media freedom at local levels is far from guaranteed, he said, adding that “it would be good if the media freedom community were to make their voices heard about the issue.’’
Sanef urges the police who have opened a case of arson to pursue their investigations with the utmost speed and vigour and arrest the culprits. Sanef also urges the community and other stakeholders to lend support to enable the broadcasters to restore their service.
10 September 2013