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Johannesburg - The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) on Wednesday condemned the attacks on Newzroom Afrika reporter Mweli Masilela and the harassment of Independent Media  journalists Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi Wa Africa.

Masilela was attacked while out on a story in Vosman near Emalahleni in Mpumalanga. He was violently accosted by a group of men while investigating the death of a 16-year-old boy who allegedly fell into an open mine pit.

According to a Sanef statement, Masilela was accompanied by community members who had raised concerns about open mine pits. 

"The men who attacked him forcefully took his camera and deleted his footage," the organisation said. "They also took his car keys. Eventually, he got his equipment back and was told to leave the area immediately."

Sanef also responded to news that Independent Media journalists Wa Afrika and Rampedi had lodged a formal complaint with the Office of the Inspector General Of Intelligence as they believe they are being followed and their phones are being bugged. 

"Sanef notes with concern the ongoing attacks, harassment and intimidation of journalists," the statement said. 

Wa Afrika had stated that “we went to the Bramley Police Station to open a case of intimidation and harassment but the police told us it is not a criminal matter if a person follows you and takes photos of you and your vehicle…. You need to be physically pushed about”. 

The two journalists believe the harassment is linked to their reporting on the so-called “rogue unit” at the SA Revenue Services (SARS).

On the Masilela incident, Sanef said it was also very disturbed to hear that the police at Vosman police station had initially refused to assist Masilela, who was turned away twice. 

"The first time he was told that because he had no visible injuries, he could not report a case. This despite there being witnesses to the assault. Then when he returned he was told that he should go to court to get a protection order against the people who attacked him. It was only after Newzroom Afrika management escalated the incident to provincial and national police spokespeople that Masilela got assistance."

Sanef said the reported reactions of police suggests that only if journalists are beaten – with visible injuries - can they expect assistance. "This is unacceptable. We know that many community news organisations suffer this kind of treatment and don't have the luxury of access to provincial and national officials in order to ensure a case is opened.

"We call on all elected leaders as well as the law enforcement authorities to take seriously the safety of journalists. We believe that any incident that hampers the safety of journalists must be taken seriously."

Sanef's statement comes a day after the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) criticised the organisation for its apparent inaction over the alleged ongoing intimidation and spying on the two Independent Media journalists.

In a statement, EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: "We condemn SANEF’s silence on the spying of these journalists. Had it been white journalists complaining about being spied on, SANEF would have released and inundated the country with statements, including going to open a criminal case itself.

"That they [Sanef] have not spoken out against the abuse of Wa Afrika and Rampedi shows which interests Sanef really is established for - the protection of white journalists, and utter neglect of blacks in the field."

African News Agency (ANA)