DURBAN - THE South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has slammed the actions of a group of students – aligned to the Economic Freedom Fighters – who intimidated eNCA journalists covering yesterday's student protests in Gauteng.
In a statement issued today, Sanef said it believed that the acts of intimidation of eNCA journalists stemmed from recent tweets by EFF leader Julius Malema encouraging members to not cooperate with journalists from this media house.
"We believe that as a direct consequence, the EFF-linked students clashed with eNCA journalist Sli Masikane while she was providing an eyewitness account of what was happening. A tense verbal exchange took place and was televised live, before Masikane and her camera crew were pushed around, and the camera shoved and blocked," Sanef chairperson, Sbu Ngalwa, said.
He said the EFF’s hostility towards eNCA dates back to December 2019 when the EFF declared that Daily Maverick, their investigative unit Scorpio, and independent investigative journalism unit amaBhungane would no longer be ‘allowed’ to cover EFF events or briefings.
Sanef warned that the ban imposed on various media entities infringed on the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under Section 16 of our Constitution. eNCA took a conscious decision to stand in solidarity with its banned colleagues.
"We believe that eNCA is now being punished for this decision. But this 'tit for tat' campaign is not good for journalism – the question is: which media entity will be the next victim? We believe such tactics by any political formation has no place in our democracy as it fuels attacks on journalists. If the EFF has any issues with the broadcaster they, like all other stakeholders, should engage with eNCA," Ngalwa said.
He said in recent months, there have been disquieting evidence of the scale and number of attacks against the physical safety of eNCA journalists as well as of incidents affecting their ability to exercise freedom of expression through blatant threats of physical harm, denial of journalistic access to interview people, and failures to intervene by our law enforcement agencies.
Ngalwa said cyberbullying and harassment have been deeply problematic. He added that Sanef was disturbed by the impunity that perpetuates the cycle of violence against journalists in general, and particularly women journalists at eNCA.
"We also wish to express our concern over the deafening silence from the country’s national and provincial assemblies. The silence of the country’s lawmakers and other political parties represented in our legislative arm of government inadvertently condones the continuation of bullying and intimidation of journalists.
"The United Nations plan of action on the safety of journalists warned that every attack on a journalist distorts reality by creating a climate of fear and self-censorship, and every journalist neutralised by terror, physically or through cyberbullying, results in one less observer of the human condition," he said.
Sanef said the curtailment of the rights of journalists to work deprives society as a whole of their journalistic contribution and results in a wider impact on press freedom where a climate of intimidation and violence leads to self-censorship.
"In such a climate, societies suffer because they lack the information needed to fully realise their potential. Sanef will continue to reach out to the EFF leadership in a bid to foster a long-lasting solution including the opening of the political party’s events to all media houses, without conditions, to ensure journalists can report freely without fear of favour," Ngalwa said.