South Africa: Harassments and threats against journalists increases in South Africa

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Press freedom is becoming a matter of concern in South Africa ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa with various media organization including the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef), expressing concerns and condemning attacks on press freedom.

Recent attacks on press freedom were reported by the Business Day newspaper on 9 April 2010 in which a BBC journalist Jonah Fisher was kicked out of a press conference by the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema on 8 April 2010.

Malema called Fisher a “bastard”, an “agent” and telling him to take his “white tendencies elsewhere” after Fisher pointed out that Malema lived in Sandton yet he criticised Zimbabwe’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, for having offices there.

Malema comments that the rest of the media could leave the conference because the only media house they were worried about was the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) because it “was their own”.

This came on the heels of Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging secretary-general Andre Visagie walking out on an talk show on the relationship between farm workers and their bosses after he became unhappy about how the interview was being handled.

In March 2010 a group of journalists lodged a formal complaint against ANCYL spokesman Floyd Shivambu for allegedly threatening journalists, saying that he had information on them after they questioned the accuracy of a document on another journalist that was leaked to them by Shivambu.

Shivambu’s attack followed a series of stories on Malema’s lifestyle and questions on whether he had directorships in companies that could be constituted as a conflict of interest.

The information in Shivambu’s possession on a City Press journalist, who has been particularly critical of Malema, suggests that someone gained access to that journalist’s personal bank account. The indication was that data was being gathered on a number of journalists.

At almost the same time, Two Mail & Guardian journalists were detained after taking pictures of President Jacob Zuma’s home in Forest Town, Johannesburg, and 702 Eyewitness News reporter Tshepo Lesole was forced by Zuma’s VIP unit to delete pictures of the president’s motorcade during a visit to Soweto’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

On 23 March 2010, eNews journalist Morgan Collins was arrested in Durban while covering a protest by nurses employed by the city council. Collins, who was allegedly standing on a pavement, was given five minutes to leave by metro police and did not.

Anton Harber, head of the Wits University journalism department, says there is a “worrying disrespect” for the media emerging. “The media at the moment are being tough on a number of issues and this is leading to a lot of intolerance from a number of quarters,” he said. “Ahead of the Olympic Games in China there was a lot of insistence on the media’s freedom to operate independently during the games, and the incident on the 8 April 2010 involving the ANCYL reflects badly in world media on South Africa and the Soccer World Cup.”


MISA condemns the attacks and intimidations against journalists in South Africa and calls on the South African government, ANCYL and the police to respect freedom of expression, press freedom and create an environment for journalists to operate without fear. MISA regards the recent harassment of journalists and the media in general as a means to derails the peace and respect for the rule of law which South Africans have being enjoying. The harassments of journalists in South Africa obliterates the rights of the media as outlined in the national constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which South Africa as a country has ratified. MISA therefore calls on authorities in South Africa to end the harassment and threats against journalists and allow journalist to operate without fear.

Source: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

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