Cape Town - Cape Argus lawyers are investigating the possibility of a civil claim and criminal charges against a Home Affairs official who allegedly assaulted a Cape Argus photographer and deleted pictures from his camera.
The incident occurred on Tuesday at about 3pm. Cape Argus photographer David Ritchie and reporter Yolisa Tswanya were on the pavement outside the Cape Town Central police station at Caledon Square speaking to the family and friends of 80 immigrants, who had earlier been arrested for not having their documents on them.
Ritchie said he took a photo of the Home Affairs official speaking to a group of the waiting people.
“He noticed me take the picture and he told me to delete it.” But when Ritchie refused, the official walked up to him and asked him to delete it again.
“I refused again, and I said I was on public property and he was a public official.” The man then grabbed Ritchie by the arm and pulled him into the police station courtyard.
“David was trying to shake the man off but couldn’t get away because the official, who was a big guy, had a tight grip on his arm,” said Tswanya.
Ritchie once again refused to delete the photo.
The official then grabbed the camera from him and started deleting the photographs stored on the memory card.
“When he gave it back, I asked him for his name, but he didn’t give it to me,” said Ritchie. Ritchie left after a policeman told him he was not permitted be in the courtyard.
Yusuf Simons, Home Affairs’ provincial manager for Western Cape, said they would investigate the incident.
Cape Argus executive editor Gasant Abarder said: “I have instructed our lawyers to investigate the possibility of instituting a civil claim against the Home Affairs official involved, and to take a statement from our photographer David Ritchie to prepare for the possibility of laying a criminal charge.”
Referring to the deletion of the images, Abarder said: “He thought he had deleted all the images but imagine our surprise when this picture of him was left on the card.”
The SA National Editors' Forum was “outraged” at the way Ritchie was manhandled and detained, and that his pictures were deleted.
It said it supported the Cape Argus plan to take legal action over the matter.
“Sanef is also concerned that it appears that wayward officials have taken to deleting images.
“Why would government officials go through the trouble of manhandling journalists and deleting their pictures if they knew that they had not broken the law and thus had nothing to hide?
“The deletion of images is illegal and should not be tolerated in a democracy.
“Sanef encourages the Cape Argus to pursue the matter to its logical end and to ensure the official faces the full wrath of the law.”