The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the attacks on Newzroom Afrika’s reporter, Mweli Masilela and the harassment of Independent journalists, Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi Wa Africa.
SANEF CONDEMNS HARASSMENT OF JOURNALISTS
10 July 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns the attacks on Newzroom
Afrika’s reporter, Mweli Masilela and the harassment of Independent journalists, Piet
Rampedi and Mzilikazi Wa Africa.
Mweli Masilela was attacked while out on a story in Vosman near Emalahleni. He was
violently accosted by a group of men while investigating the death of a 16-year-old boy who
allegedly fell into an open mine pit.
Masilela was accompanied by community members who had raised concerns about open
mine pits. The men who attacked him forcefully took his camera and deleted his footage.
They also took his car keys. Eventually, he got his equipment back and was told to leave the
SANEF believes the attack in itself is shocking however we are also very disturbed to hear
that the police at Vosman police station initially refused to assist Masilela. He was turned
away twice. The first time he was told that because he had no visible injuries, he could not
report a case. This despite there being witnesses to the assault. Then when he returned he was
told that he should go to court to get a protection order against the people who attacked him.
It was only after Newzroom Afrika management escalated the incident to provincial and
national police spokespeople that Masilela got assistance.
The initial police reaction suggests that only if journalists are beaten – with visible injuries –
can they expect assistance. This is unacceptable. We know that many community news
organisations suffer this kind of treatment and don’t have the luxury of access to provincial
and national officials in order to ensure a case is opened.
On another matter brought to our attention after a reach out from our office, journalist
Mzilikazi Wa Afrika said he and colleague Piet Rampedi, from Independent Media, have
lodged a formal complaint with the Office of the Inspector General Of Intelligence as they
believe they are being followed and their phones are being bugged. Mzilikazi Wa Afrika
stated, “We went to the Bramley Police Station to open a case of intimidation and harassment
but the police told us it is not a criminal matter if a person follows you and takes photos of
you and your vehicle…. You need to be physically pushed about”. Rampedi and Wa Afrika
believe that the harassment is linked to their reporting on the so called “rogue unit” at the SA
Revenue Services (SARS).
SANEF notes with concern the ongoing attacks, harassment and intimidation of
journalists. We call on all elected leaders as well as the law enforcement authorities to take
seriously the safety of journalists. We believe that any incident that hampers the safety of
journalists must be taken seriously.