Pretoria News chief photographer Masi Losi is confronted by police officers who manhandled and threatened to arrest him. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Two violent attacks by police on news photographers in Pretoria and Bloemfontein are to be taken up by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD).

The investigation comes as editor and journalist groups condemned the attacks and demanded that the policemen responsible be criminally investigated and prosecuted.

Pretoria News chief photographer Masi Losi was physically assaulted on Friday while photographing two Pretoria Central police station officers rescuing a suspected thief from a mob threatening to lynch him outside the newspaper’s offices in Vermeulen Street.

The attack came after a Volksblad photographer, Theo Jephta, was attacked and then driven off by two police officers in Bloemfontein while photographing a group of pupils fighting in the city. The policemen at the time had allegedly been sitting in their vehicle watching the fight. Jephta was released only after senior police officers in the Free State were contacted.

Questions to the police ministry over the assaults and what Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was going to do to ensure that the cases were investigated were referred to the different provincial police commissioners offices by Mthethwa’s spokesman, Zweli Minisi.

Police spokesman Colonel Neville Malila said that apart from the criminal case which had been opened by Losi, an internal inquiry into the actions of the policemen was also being conducted.

“No arrests have been made and the policemen have not been suspended. A case of common assault is being investigated and a full report will be sent to our disciplinary department tomorrow (Monday) for a decision on what action is to be taken,” said Malila.

The investigations come as Losi said he would be approaching the ICD to investigate the actions of the two policemen who assaulted him. Losi laid charges on Friday night.

Volksblad acting editor Annelize Doubell said the newspaper’s management would be meeting the company’s lawyers on Monday. “Once we have met them we will decide on what further action to take.”

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and ProJourn condemned the assaults and demanded that they be “dealt with by the highest authority”.

Sanef said it wanted the police responsible charged and punished.

ProJourn said the reasons provided by police that they tried to arrest Losi because he had not introduced himself or asked permission was wrong. He was not legally or otherwise obliged to do so. “This incident serves as a painful reminder that the police do not understand their own regulations in this regard, let alone the law governing media coverage of crime.

“Commitments have been made by police that they will stop incidents of this sort and we can only believe that these commitments have not been followed through.” - Pretoria News