Home PodcastInayet Wadee SANEF will protect journalists from those who threaten them

SANEF will protect journalists from those who threaten them

by Luqmaan Rawat
The protest taking place outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court Photo Twitter/@PieterDuToit

South Africa – The ongoing case between former President Jacob Zuma and Karyn Maughan has sparked a debate over whether South African journalists are protected. Media freedom is an essential part of a democratic country but a country can’t have that if journalists are not protected.

There have been countless cases in the past where journalists have been targeted simply for doing their job. The case of Maughan is proof of that, explained Hopewell Radebe, South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) Projects Manager.

“Our constitution does protect freedom of expression. This is where the rights of the media and practitioners fall under. Yet we find that the former president believes journalists should be prosecuted if they printed something one does not like. In this case he really believes that being a former president, if he is sick, it should be none of the nation’s business. Journalists should not know about this and it should not be printed.”

Zuma told the court he was suffering from a sickness and the document stating he was sick was put in the files which is how Maughan was able to report on it, said Radebe. The same was done with former president Thabo Mbeki and the late president Nelson Mandela. Nothing was kept secret from the public and this document is available for public consumption.


Female journalists coming under attack

SANEF were joined by the Right2Know campaign and other various activists at the protest they held outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court. They came to raise their concern about women journalists being targeted, said Radebe.

“One journalist in the Western Cape working for ENCA. The EFF was protesting and thrashing shops. The journalist went there and she was harassed and pushed around. Another from ENCA was pushed to the ground when she was covering the MMC for safety but the MMC walked away when the journalist was being pushed as she was trying to get an interview with him. It is one of those things that we feel women get targeted.”

Earlier this month, Estella Naicker, a journalist for Newcastle Advertiser, was intimidated and harassed by the municipality mayor, Xolani Dube and his deputy, Sugar Thwala. The incident occurred on Hathorn Street when Naicker was speaking to members of the Newcastle Residents Forum (NRF) about a project they were working on. They were repairing potholes when a convoy of vehicles arrived. After being intimidated by Dube, Naicker moved across the road to take photos. When councillors saw her, their bodyguards rushed to her, grabbed her phone from her hand and deleted the pictures they found. They then stood by her side until the councillors left to ensure she did not take any more pictures. Naicker says she experienced a range of emotions as this was the first time such an incident had happened to her.

“I was a bit nervous about my property being taken and damaged. I was upset that I was unable to perform my duties as a journalist and to report on something that was unfolding in a public space where I had every right to be in.”

Naicker believes this level of intimidation between her and the councillors had been building ever since she wrote her last investigative piece. A 4-page series regarding the awarding of a contract to Pro Afrika for R43.5 million for a water and sanitation project.

She has written “extensively about corruption when the ANC was in power”, the former mayors various court cases and so forth but she was never harassed or intimidated by these administrations. 

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Providing protection to journalists

Naicker believes that more needs to be done to protect journalists. Councillors and their bodyguards need to be educated on how to treat the media and what rights the media have.

“There needs to be more education. Councillors come and go and they don’t necessarily have years of experience in dealing with the media. They don’t understand the role of the media in local communities. In my incident, the councillors reacted and the bodyguards felt compelled to act and I don’t think they understood that I had a right to be there and do my job. That they were breaking the law in prohibiting me from doing what I need to do.”

Just like workshops are held to get them up to speed on what needs to be done, there needs to be a workshop on how one should handle the media. Since the incident has happened, Naicker has been contacted by various organisations that protect the rights of journalists. This makes her feel hopeful that there are people out there fighting to protect journalists and the freedom of the press. 

SANEF has organised the protest but they will not stop there, said Rabede. They will continue to stand by Maughan’s side. They have applied to be friends of the court. They will be incurring legal costs so their point can be made. 

“It is not just about Karyn. It’s about principle. We will stand up and protect and defend any journalist that faces private prosecution. We don’t want it to be a trend in South Africa where journalists are silenced from doing their job by being threatened to be prosecuted for investigative work that they have done.”

To hear more from Hopewell Radebe about the case and how SANEF plans to protect journalists, listen to the podcast here:

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