Intimidation and ‘bullying’ of journalists condemned

Staff Writer | Jul 29, 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has condemned ‘several incidents amounting to intimidation and bullying of journalists in the country [last] week’.

SANEF said in a statement it understood the Hawks ‘are attempting, via SAPS in KwaZulu-Natal, to force Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm to reveal her sources’.

This attempt followed an article written by Thamm, Top cop implicated in corruption by Nxasana and Booysen appointed acting head of KZN Hawks Organised Crime Unit.

SANEF media freedom spokesperson Sam Mkoleki said in a statement: ‘SANEF understands that the Hawks are investigating the alleged theft of documents and disclosure of information that the police say was meant for the use of the SAPS only. Daily Maverick disputes the allegation.

‘A charge was laid at the Durban Central police station by Colonel WS “Welcome” Mhlongo, who was the subject of Thamm’s expose in Daily Maverick. As a result, an investigating officer contacted Thamm asking her to reveal her sources. Thamm will respond in an affidavit that she will not reveal her sources.’

This was despite the Memorandum of Understanding between SANEF and the Ministers of Justice and Safety and Security on 19 February 1999 ‘which suspended the application of Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act – the law under which demands can be made on journalists to reveal their sources or what they know about an alleged crime’.

‘Instead of resorting to Section 205, the memorandum lays down that an opportunity must be provided for the matter to be referred to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to enable consultations and negotiations between all stakeholders to be held.’

SANEF was also concerned about a visit to Daily Maverick offices in Johannesburg last week by a police officer, who asked of the whereabouts of journalist Aidan Lee Jones. 'The officer refused to reveal the reasons for the visit to Managing Editor Jillian Green, saying he would come back if he didn’t come right elsewhere.’

It had emerged that ‘police have indicated that they are investigating charges laid by Durban businessman Roy Moodley against GroundUp, reporter Aidan Jones and Citizen editor Trevor Stevens. Jones had written an article for GroundUp exposing alleged corruption involving Moodley in relation to the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa. The article was republished in The Citizen and Daily Maverick.’

SANEF said it had ‘also noted with grave concern the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) statement on the latest “death threats” directed at its journalists who are covering various issues across the country, including instances of alleged corruption, as well as “political and corporate bullying” directed at its news service staff, with some of these happening on social media platforms’.

Mkoleki said: ‘These incidents come against the backdrop of the naming and shaming of certain journalists on Twitter, which is also of grave concern and which can have a chilling effect in newsrooms.’

 

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