23 May 2011
Sanef demands drastic disciplinary action against ANC regional chairman who called for burning down of newspaper office
The SA National Editors’ Forum is deeply shocked and concerned at the reported attempt by the African National Congress’s Nelson Mandela Bay regional chairman Nceba Faku to incite ANC supporters to attack and burn down the offices of The Herald newspaper in the city of Port Elizabeth.
The Herald reported that Faku, addressing supporters from the steps of the Port Elizabeth City Hall as they celebrated the ANC’s local government election victory in the city, that the paper was the party’s biggest enemy and then shouted, “Down with The Herald, down! Go and burn The Herald.”
Sanef is concerned at the insipid comment of ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu on Faku’s conduct – he said, if Faku was quoted correctly his statement was “unacceptable”. An attempt to incite people to burn down a newspaper should draw instant repudiation from the party leadership and the instigation of drastic disciplinary action against the person.
Indeed, Sanef calls on President Jacob Zuma to take action against Faku immediately.
Sanef has noted—as have international organizations such as Freedom House and Amnesty International—the growing hostility of the ruling party towards the press. It was one of the reasons Freedom House downgraded South Africa from a “free” country to “partly free” in its review of freedom around the world. In its annual report 2011, Amnesty International raised concerns over threats to freedom of expression in South Africa, citing the unlawful arrest of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika after his reports on an alleged hit squad linked to senior Limpopo provincial government members.
There is no indication that these accusations have had any effect on the ANC leadership.
Sanef has noted statements by ANC leaders, including Zuma, that the press is the real opposition and enemy of the ruling party and their attempts to lay the blame for the party’s losses in the local government elections on the media.
Sanef is concerned that leadership hostility towards the media will spread to grassroots ANC supporters and lead to journalists being attacked and injured while carrying out their duties. Already at the Faku meeting, a member of the crowd tried to intimidate a Herald reporter. Aggression against the media will not only endanger journalists and their colleagues in newspaper employment but restrict the ability of the press to inform the public of what is happening in their communities and the nation as a whole.
In addition to the disciplining of Faku, Sanef calls on the government to live up to its constitutional duty to respect and protect the freedom of the press to enable it to carry out its duty to keep the public informed.