Media freedom must be protected by state – R2K

Organisation condemns obstruction of journalists to freely cover court appearance of eThekwini Mayor

Statement: Right2Know demands that freedom of expression and media freedom be protected by the state!

7 August 2019

The treatment of journalists during the past court appearances of suspended eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede is a serious concern to the Right2Know Campaign. The treatment suffered by journalists at the hands of police and supporters of the Mayor confirmed why South Africa’s ranking on the World Press Freedom Index has dropped. 

R2K in KZN has noted that it has become a norm that whenever the suspended eThekwini Mayor appear in court, her supporters and police threaten and manhandle journalists. It is shocking in a country that claims to be democratic for journalists to be treated in the manner in which the world witnessed last month and that there haven’t been any repercussions on those responsible for trampling on media freedom.

We condemn the unabated verbal attacks and obstruction of journalists to freely cover the court appearance of eThekwini Mayor. The Right2Know Campaign is concerned about the growing acts of targeting journalists in the line of duty by state agents who infringe on freedom of expression and press freedom. The media environment is increasingly getting unduly restricted by both state and non-state agents.

We, therefore, call upon the Office of the President to ensure that when Mayor Zandile Gumede makes a court appearance tomorrow, August 08, journalists are not hindered or threatened in any way in the discharge of their duties. We also call on the office of the KZN MEC for Community Safety and Liaison and the KZN SAPS Provincial Commissioner to make sure that police don’t interfere with media and take disciplinary action against the police who intimidate and abuse journalists. The attacks and threats which range from assault and denial of access to news scenes, damage of equipment are worsened by arrests and detention of journalists. 

The state must at all times respect, promote and uphold the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and media freedom.  We also urge members of the media fraternity to be professional in their work, vigilant and work together in unity in ensuring their safety and security. We also call on all democratic formations in the country to stand with journalists for this could be the beginning of a slide into tyranny. Defending democracy demands eternal vigilance from every concerned citizen of this country.

Issued by Sthembiso Khuluse, R2K KZN Organiser, 7 August 2019