Committee to Protect Journalists demands police drop charges against assaulted editor
CAPE TOWN - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Monday demanded that the police drop charges against community newspaper editor Paul Nthoba and asked for an investigation of those who assaulted him.
"Authorities must do the right thing and immediately drop the charge against Paul Nthoba, who was insulted and gratuitously assaulted by police for simply chronicling them at work,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator.
Quintal added that it was astonishing that the same police officers who allegedly seriously assaulted Nthoba while he was reporting in Meqheleng township in the Free State on Friday, would dare again beat him at the Ficksburg police station when he went to file a complaint.
“For the same officers to feel so emboldened that they could beat him again, this time in a police station in front of a senior officer when he sought to open an assault case, is beyond belief. Authorities must not let them get away with this violence and intimidation toward the press."
Nthoba is the editor of the Mohokare News community newspaper, and former reporter for the SABC.
He told the media that he went into hiding after the assault, during which he said he was hit, kicked, grabbed by the throat and choked while documenting scenes of the township under lockdown.
The police confiscated his mobile phone at the police station and told him that he should not have photographed the police without their permission.
CPJ, one of the world's foremost media freedom watchdog bodies, said Nthoba was treated at hospital for trauma, bruising and internal injuries.
He said he was informed that the charges against him refer to obstruction and working without the media permit required in terms of South Africa's current Covid-19 lockdown regulations. However, he said he did have a permit but the police did not ask to see it.
Nthoba was detained at the police station for four hours before he was released on warning to appear in court on August 27.
His lawyer, Dan Thulo, told the CPJ that he planned to lodge a civil claim against the South Africa Police Service and Police Minister Bheki Cele.
The South African National Editors' Forum has deplored the assault and said it would call on the security authorities to ensure that it was investigated at the highest level.
According to the CPJ, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate is investigating the matter.
Ipid did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.
African News Agency