SA editors’ forum condemns attack on SABC journalists in Free State

This picture is for illustrative purposes only. Residents from the Gomorrah township are seen protesting while they await the arrival of the Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa to address them, 12 April 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

This picture is for illustrative purposes only. Residents from the Gomorrah township are seen protesting while they await the arrival of the Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa to address them, 12 April 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The forum said it was worried by the increasing attacks on journalists, particularly during service delivery strikes.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) on Wednesday condemned the attack on two South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) journalists at Moemaneng in Marquard in the Free State.

The journalists, Thabo Katsanda and Thabiso Radebe, escaped with their lives when they were attacked by a group of armed youth. They were forced to drive over a barricade of stones, rocks and burning tyres to get away.

Katsanda explained that the youths between, aged between 14 and 20, surrounded the car.

“At first they seemed friendly and asked for money to remove the barricade that had been resurrected. Then they turned hostile. One pulled out a knife. It seemed that they wanted to rob us of our money and cellphones and then burn the car,” he said.

According to Sanef, for months now disgruntled residents have been protesting against poor service delivery and demanding that the municipal executives be removed. Journalists have been covering these stories amidst ongoing low levels of harassment and hostility.

“This time however things escalated, journalists were forced to flee and thus abandon the story,” said Sanef in a statement.

It said it was worried by the increasing attacks on journalists, particularly during service delivery strikes. There have been a number of incidents around the country, including most recently during the Alexandra township #shutdown protests.

“It seems journalists are becoming soft targets for criminals. Sanef believes this is a worrying situation as journalists will now be more cautious about going into these areas. However, these are precisely the places and stories we need to be covering if we are serious about holding the government to account,” Sanef added.

The forum further called on media houses to protect their journalists by doing security assessments if necessary and to support journalists by offering hostile environment training and counseling.

Ahead of the elections, Sanef ran a series of elections workshops across the country that included safety training. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Emergencies Response Team (ERT) compiled a safety kit which is available on the Sanef website. The kit contains information for editors, reporters, and photojournalists on how to mitigate digital, physical and psychological risks, Sanef said, adding that the safety training session was also available on the forum’s website.

“We believe a major priority project that is ongoing is an education campaign that explains to the public the important role of journalists in society in uncovering corruption, lack of service delivery, etc. That campaign should involve all South African and should not be left to just editors.”

African News Agency (ANA)

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