SANEF condemns assault on journalists in Mpumalanga
JOHANNESBURG - The South African National Editors' Forum has condemned the physical assault on freelance journalist Desmond Latham; a female staff member from Frayintermedia; and a female employee of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), allegedly by members of the VUKTA taxi association at Embalenhle township near Secunda in Mpumalanga on Thursday afternoon.
Latham and his colleagues were covering an ongoing battle at Embalenhle township at about 4.45pm, where the minibus taxi association was fighting a local bus company, Megabus, SANEF said in a statement on Saturday.
“There has been no report about this (story), and we were attacked without warning ... police were involved because the UNICEF person is from Brazil,” Latham was quoted as having said.
“These men are punching women. They appear to be hired by the association. There was no anger or even a sign of any trouble before we were attacked. The taxi company is targeting reporters,” he said.
SANEF said it was deeply concerned that journalists were increasingly facing violence and intimidation for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression in South Africa. Women journalists faced specific dangers and were especially vulnerable, and sometimes subjected to mob-related violence when covering public events, often in reprisal for their work.
As a result, they suffered from trauma and the emotional impact of experiencing physical attacks which led to anxiety, insomnia, irritation, and or post-traumatic stress disorder, which could cause incapacitating feelings of horror, fear, and despair. SANEF was told that while the victims were not severely hurt, the attackers stole their Canon D5 camera and lens and damaged their vehicle, the statement said.
Lathan had warned journalists who may be heading to Secunda to keep a sharp eye out for “mobs of men”. A case of assault and robbery was registered at Embalenhle Police Station.
SANEF believed that the intention was to intimidate journalists so that they were reluctant to write, research, or speak about the territorial battle and violence in the minibus taxi industry in Mpumalanga.
SANEF joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in efforts to strengthen the capacity of member states to implement, voluntarily, mechanisms to prevent attacks against journalists, to protect journalists, and to prosecute the perpetrators of these attacks.
"We call on the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa to take a leaf from UNESCO’s action plan that focuses on activities to raise awareness and train representatives of the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, and parliaments on the importance of freedom of the press and the safety of journalists. A commitment to safety of journalists allows journalists and media professionals to receive, produce, and share information without facing physical or moral threats," SANEF said.African News Agency