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Sanef condemns attacks on journalists

Sanef Statement 8 December 2014

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has condemned two incidents last week where journalists were assaulted, held captive and threatened with necklacing.

In the first case, Sanef is shocked at the assault of a Sunday Tribune journalist allegedly by Ms Thandeka Nene and another person. Ms Nene, who was involved in the building of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, has been in the news recently when she was arrested for corruption and fraud for allegedly inflating her qualifications and experience as a builder which led to her winning tenders worth around R118 million. She was released on R30 000 bail.

Last week her mother was stabbed to death by intruders who wanted money and the Sunday Tribune journalist had gone to Mrs Nene’s home to cover the story when they were attacked, leaving journalist Sandile Ngidi bleeding and needing several stitches at a hospital. A case of assault has been opened with the police.

Sanef is horrified that a person who makes her living from state tenders can be accused of such gross illegal activity such as assault. Indeed if the Nene family had not wanted the reporters on their property, which is their right, they could easily have asked them to leave, instead of the criminal acts that saw Ngidi bleeding profusely. Sanef hopes the police investigation will be speeded up.

This incident follows on the kidnap of Daily Sun staff by alleged community leaders at Nellmapius outside Pretoria during a protest around the building and demolition of shacks in the area also known as Malemaville.

The journalists were held against their will, with one‘s clothing torn and he was slapped and also hit with a beer bottle on the knee. Their equipment was confiscated and later returned with the camera damaged. This was after alleged threats to necklace them to gain more media attention. The community has been linked to the Economic Freedom Fighters,but EFF leader Julius Malema has distanced his party from the group.

Sanef calls on the community of Nellmapius and its leaders to understand that the role of journalists is to record events and report on them impartially. They should work with the journalists to get their point of view across and not abduct, beat up and threaten journalists.

• Sanef welcomes the judgment by the North Gauteng High Court that overturned the criminal conviction of former Sowetan reporter Cecile Motsepe last week. Motsepe was convicted for his investigation into the alleged racist judgments of Magistrate Marius Serfontein. However, Sanef remains concerned about the fact that the high court ruled criminal defamation was not unconstitutional. We believe that the crime of criminal defamation does not belong in the law books of a democratic state and will explore further avenues available to challenge this archaic piece of legislation.