Sanef requests urgent meeting with SAPS

Forum says police disregarding their duty to protect all people, even journalists

Sanef statement on recent assults of journalists and meeting with SAPS

4 April 2016

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) this morning dispatched an urgent request for a meeting with the leadership of the SAPS following a number of incidents in which journalists were assaulted and kidnapped in the presence of members of the SAPS who allegedly either assisted the assailants or failed to intervene.

On Saturday, following the funeral of anti-mining activist Sikhosiphi 'Bazooka' Rhadebe in a village near Mbizana, in the eastern cape, two journalists from The Citizen, Nigel Sibanda and Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni, who were photographing an area around the village, were attacked and beaten together with two community activists leaving some of them critically injured. It is alleged police officers who arrived on the scene did not assist or stop the assaults but instead took the injured to the police station instead of hospital.

On Friday, SABC journalist Jacques Steenkamp, investigating child prostitution in Mogale City, was accosted and kidnapped by alleged drug dealers who also run the prostitution ring. They are alleged to have been in the company of police officers who assisted them. Steenkamp was held for a number of hours and only released after the group had withdrawn about R5000 from his bank account.

Also on Friday, a Sowetan photographer, Tiro Ramatlhatse, who was covering a fraud case at the Molopo magistrate court in Mmabatho, North West, involving about R18 millions of North West University money, was attacked inside the courtroom by spectators. He was rescued by a security guard.

Sanef is extremely concerned by what appears to be patent disregard of the SAPS members’ duty of protecting all members of the public including journalists. Sanef has reached agreements with SAPS leadership in the past about the rights of journalist at crime scenes and community protest areas where the police are present. To this end a Z card outlining the rights and duties of police officers and of journalists was printed jointly by SAPS and Sanef last month.

Sanef calls on members of the public to protect journalists and to appreciate the role that journalists play in a democracy. However that such assaults happen with the alleged abetting of SAPS officers is disturbing in the extreme and it is this that Sanef hopes to resolve with the SAPS leadership in the meeting we have requested.

Issued by Mathatha Tsedud, Executive Dircetor, Sanef, 4 April 2016