Bloemfontein - The taking of photographs by the media during a parliamentary visit to Groenpunt prison in Bloemfontein was not allowed, correctional services portfolio committee chairman Vincent Smith said on Thursday.
He was reacting to a report that Free State prison officials detained journalists, confiscated their equipment and deleted photographs of warders allegedly assaulting a prisoner on Wednesday.
The portfolio committee inspected the Groenpunt maximum security prison outside Deneysville, where inmates rioted last week.
“Journalist were asked not to take photos of the correctional facilities and of inmates,” Smith said.
He said a prison official was stabbed by an inmate during the visit.
Smith said this happened at the end of a media briefing, while the parliamentarians were on their way to a meeting place at the facility.
Prison officials apparently stopped Smith and the committee members from entering the facility, for their own safety, and led them away from the commotion.
Smith said the use of force by prison officials, as seen by journalists, might have been part of efforts to restore law and order during the stabbing.
The Star and The Times newspapers reported that journalists witnessed prison warders beating a prisoner on Thursday.
“Through the fence, we saw a mob of warders assaulting a man dressed in orange garb - apparently a defenceless prisoner - who squirmed and groaned in pain,” reported The Star journalists.
“... We saw them passing the man around in a circle, brutally beating him.”
News photographers took pictures.
Several journalists and photographers were later detained, body-searched and had their cellphones and cameras confiscated.
Smith said officials had acted within their rights.
“If (prison) officials had deleted photos of inmates and that which would compromise the security of the facility, they were within their rights,” he said.
Smith said if it was true that prison officials had deleted other unrelated photos, this fell outside the agreement and was something for which the department of correctional services should answer. - Sapa