Statement on the harassment of amaBhungane journalist Micah Reddy
amaBhungane is taking legal advice about the way forward.
“On Monday morning, 17 July, I went to Shine Studios in Braamfontein to participate in a discussion on the SABC TV show Daily Thetha. The show went live at 11AM and entailed heated debate between myself, BLF's Andile Mngxitama, and others, on issues such as fake news and the Gupta leaks. The show also had a live audience that engaged with the panel.
After the show there was a brief photo shoot with presenters and panelists as the audience made its way out the studio. I then said goodbye to one of the presenters, fetched my bag and proceeded to leave the studio with the remainder of the audience that was trickling out.
As soon as I exited the studio, in the courtyard of the building, about 5 men and women who were walking with Mngxitmana suddenly started to heckle me. They were gesturing and shouting at me at once, accusing me of spreading fake news and making other assertions that I could not quite make out amid all the noise and confusion. Their demeanour, however, was unambiguously threatening.
I was somewhat perplexed and had stopped in my tracks about 5-10 meters away from them.
I could not immediately make out political markers associated with the BLF within the group but I was sure - given what they were saying and the fact that they seemed to be accompanying Mr Mngxitama who was right next to them smiling as they yelled at me - that they were indeed BLF members.
As they yelled at me I faced them and asked them if they were BLF members. One individual who was the most aggressive and vitriolic then unzipped his jersey to reveal his BLF t-shirt, saying that he was 'proudly BLF'. I then dismissively flicked my hand and proceeded to walk away.
At that point, as I was walking away, he and his associates ran after me cursing. Some other individuals who were bystanders and were not part of his group tried to hold him back to prevent him from reaching me. However, I hadn't immediately realised that they were running after me and the one particularly aggressive individual (wearing the BLF T-shirt) had got close enough to lash out at me with a kick.
Someone else had managed to get behind me and I felt a firm tug on my backpack and jacket. A woman was swearing and grabbing at me, trying to stop we from walking away from the fight. Some other bystanders interceded and tried to extract me from the melee.
They walked me up a short flight of stairs within the courtyard and at the top of the stairs another man (I am not sure where he had come from) grabbed my arm in an aggressive manner. I pushed his arm off of mine and continued walking away towards the exit.
As that happened a staff member accompanying me requested that I go with him. I said I would happily oblige so as to defuse the situation. Staff members then took me up a flight of stairs in the courtyard that led to a waiting room to which they ushered me inside.
All the while the BLF members continued shouting abuse at me from the courtyard floor.
The staff members suggested I wait until the BLF members left as it was too risky for me to leave right away. Eventually the BLF members made their way out of the courtyard though I did not see them leave as I was inside the room. I am not sure where Mr Mngxitama was at that stage.
After what I estimate to be about 15 minutes since being ushered into the room, staff members came to tell me that they felt it was probably safe to leave. However, they seemed concerned that the BLF members might wait to ambush me as I made my way to my car outside, so they suggested that a staff member accompany me.
I then walked with another member of staff to my car, which was parked around the corner from the studio. By that time the BLF members appeared to have left the area.
The organisers of the event were very apologetic. They told me that they were shocked and that they had never had something like that happen before. They have promised to assist me in whichever way possible."
17 July 2017
Issued by amaBhungane, 17 July 2017