File picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA).

Johannesburg - The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has again called on policing agencies to stop interfering after attempts by the Durban Central Police Station to force Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm to reveal her sources. 

This came after the journalist wrote about the appointment of Colonel Sthembiso Mhlongo, the Hawks acting provincial commander for Organised Crime in KwaZulu-Natal. Mhlongo had been implicated at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

The Hawks, through spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi had attempted to deny they were involved in the attempts for Thamm to reveal her sources. He said the police had been following up on a complaint laid by Mhlongo “in his personal capacity”.

Sanef recently released a statement condemning the harassment of journalists. 

In that statement, Sanef said Thamm would not reveal her sources to the police, a stance that was in line with a memorandum of understanding signed between the forum and the ministers of Justice and Safety and Security in February 1999. 

The memorandum effectively suspended Section 205 of the criminal procedures act, which allows the law to demand journalists to reveal their sources and what they know about an alleged crime.

“Mulaudzi tried to divorce the DPCI (Hawks) from this complaint, even though Mhlongo is an acting head within the Hawks. In a detailed response to the Hawks, Daily Maverick wrote in an editorial on Tuesday that it ‘Smells like intimidation whichever way you perfume it’,” said Kate Skinner, Sanef’s executive director.

“Sanef stands by its statement and reiterates the call for all policing agencies to stop putting pressure on journalists to reveal their sources. Incidents that were raised in the Sanef statement highlight the urgency of arranging a meeting between Sanef and the SAPS to discuss crucial aspects of engagement between the media and the country’s law enforcement agencies. Sanef has approached the National Commissioner of Police, General Khehla Sitole to set a date and we hope to meet with him shortly,” said Skinner.

Meanwhile, Skinner said Sanef welcomed Primedia’s investigation into editorial independence will be headed by Advocate Terry Motau. 

“Sanef is carefully watching the process and we encourage Primedia to make the recommendations public. We believe that editorial independence is a cornerstone of good journalism,” she said.