Durban – The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has condemned another hostile attack against journalists by police at the scene of service delivery protests outside Port Elizabeth and vowed on Saturday to take the matter up with Police Minister, Bheki Cele.
The editors’ forum said that on Friday morning a team of journalists from the South African Broadcasting Services (SABC), although clearly identified, came under attack by riot police and were pelted with rubber bullets.
According to SABC Editor in Chief Ms Phathiswa Magopeni: “We were informed by our regional editor, Diedre Uren that at 9am yesterday our team, Zolani Moya and Gcobani Blom, were at the Motherwell intersection on the Addo Road outside Port Elizabeth covering a story about service delivery protests, when they came under fire from police”.
The protests had been taking place on and off for most of the week.
“They were covering the blocking of the roads”, says Magopeni.
“The crew was clearly identifiable in an SABC branded bakkie. The cameraman was on the back of the bakkie filming when the radio reporter noticed an oncoming ‘Hippo’ riot vehicle. They immediately jumped down and tried to get into the vehicle to leave the area. The community was around them but peaceful.”
Says Magopeni, “Our vehicle was not blocking the road as it was parked on the side of the road. But police without warning started firing rubber bullets and as our team tried to flee, they were shot at and injured”.
Both journalists were taken to hospital and received treatment. Fortunately, they are now stable.
Magopeni states, “This attack was unnecessary and extremely hostile. Every care is taken to train our journalists on what to do in hostile situations. They are told to clearly identify themselves which they did. It is a brazen attack that must be investigated at the very highest level of the police leadership”.
Sanef it planned to table the matter at its upcoming meeting with the National Police Commissioner and the Ministry of Police.
"The attacks and assaults on journalists at crime scenes by police, and the censorship by police of journalists doing their job at crime scenes are on the increase. These actions prevent journalists from informing the public of the truth, a right enshrined and protected in our constitution. Service delivery protests are a common feature in our country and journalists have a right and a duty to covering these stories. The officer responsible must be held accountable," Sanef said in a statement.