02 May 2013
The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) condemns the actions of police in Oudtshoorn who on Tuesday night arrested a journalist, photographer Hein Coetzee of Die Son newspaper, on charges of crimen injuria and riotous behaviour which it appears have been dropped. Coetzee was covering a mob attack on ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman and took photographs of the mob chasing Fransman as he fled the scene with his police bodyguards.
Coetzee said after the police closed on him and arrested him they assaulted him and sprayed him with pepper. The police also took possession of his cellphone and camera. He was later treated in hospital for his injuries before spending the night in a police cell. He was released at 10.30 on Wednesday.
Sanef which in the past has protested strongly to the Minister of Police Nathi Mthetwa and a former Police Commissioner when other journalists were arrested and detained while carrying out their journalistic duties takes strong exception at this latest detention and assault on a journalist while carrying out his duties. There can be no question that he was part of the mob as he carried a camera and his documentation would immediately have confirmed his occupation as a journalist.
Sanef approves of Coetzee laying a charge against the police with the full backing of his paper and condemns the police for again disregarding their standing orders to assist journalists especially when covering disturbances and scenes of violence.
Sanef stresses the irony that while journalists in many democracies throughout the world celebrate Friday, May 3, World Press Freedom Day, in commemoration of the United Nations adopting the freedom of the press declaration, the Windhoek Declaration, the police in South Africa should again be trying to exercise restraint on a journalist doing his duty and, in addition, assaulting him so severely that he required medical treatment in hospital.
The charges against the more than 20 journalists who were the subject of the earlier Sanef complaints to the minister and police commissioner were all either dropped or dismissed by prosecutors as being without foundation. The fact that no further action has been taken against Coetzee suggests that the charges brought against him will also be dropped.
Sanef calls on the police to abide by their own standing orders as well as the South African Constitution.
Issued by the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF)