Hawks trying to ‘obfuscate’ media concerns

Staff Writer | Aug 03, 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has accused the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), or the Hawks, for trying to ‘obfuscate serious issues’ about ‘policing agencies harassing journalists’.

As the Daily Friend reported this week, SANEF had issued a statement expressing alarm at ‘intimidation and bullying of journalists’ by the authorities, apparently in an attempt to get them to reveal sources.

SANEF noted that Hawks’ spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi had issued a statement in response.

This statement, said SANEF Executive Director Kate Skinner, ‘attempts to obfuscate serious issues’.

‘Mulaudzi denied that the Hawks were behind recent attempts by the Durban Central Police Station to get Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm to reveal her sources. This followed an article she wrote about the appointment of Colonel Sthembiso Mhlongo – who has been implicated at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture – as the DPCI’s Acting Provincial Commander for Organised Crime in KwaZulu-Natal.

‘In his statement, Mulaudzi said that the “Detective Service at station level” was following up on a complaint lodged by Mhlongo “in his personal capacity”. (SANEF notes, of course, that he is the subject of Thamm’s exposé). Mulaudzi tried to divorce the DPCI from this complaint, even though Mhlongo is an acting head within the DPCI. In a detailed response to the Hawks statement, Daily Maverick wrote in an editorial on Tuesday that it “Smells like intimidation whichever way you perfume it”.’

Skinner said SANEF stood by its statement and ‘reiterates the call for ALL policing agencies to stop putting pressure on journalists to reveal their sources’.

She said incidents raised in the SANEF statement ‘highlight the urgency of arranging a meeting between SANEF and the SAPS to discuss crucial aspects of engagement between the media and the country’s law enforcement agencies’. SANEF hoped to meet National Commissioner of Police, General Khehla Sitole, soon.

SANEF also welcomed the announcement by media house Primedia of the launch of an ‘independent investigation into editorial interference’. It is to be headed by Advocate Terry Motau.

Skinner said: ‘SANEF is carefully watching the process and we encourage Primedia to make the recommendations public. We believe that editorial independence is a cornerstone of good journalism.’

 

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