EARLIER this week, Daily Maverick reporter, Lerato Mutsila, who was covering the Extinction Rebellion protest, was assaulted by Standard Bank’s security, who also unlawfully removed photos and videos from her mobile phone. This is just another in a growing list of such incidents that have the potential to diminish media freedom.
Videos and images of the altercation at Standard Bank’s Johannesburg offices, have made headlines on social media, with the person who appeared to be in charge, who has been identified as Karin Dirr, Internal Protection Services Manager and Travel Risk Governance at Standard Bank Group, being the main culprit.
“The outright abuse of a journalist at Standard Bank’s offices in Johannesburg, is yet another sad indictment of shameful behaviour by this bank. They appear to have lost all reason when it comes to how to engage with the press. Standard Bank clearly has scant regard for freedom of speech and the right of freedom of association”, said Independent Media’s editor-in-chief, Aziz Hartley.
The bank’s abusive power tactics, for example, in how it aims to terminate all Sekunjalo Group company accounts, including those of Independent Media, seems to have been communicated down the chain of command, to where anyone and everyone who crosses or is seen to disagree with the bank’s narrative, are now forcibly dealt with.
According to news reports, Mutsila has lodged a charge of assault and unlawful deprivation of property with the SAPS.
As reported on by the Daily Maverick, Standard Bank has not tried to reach them or Mutsila, not apologising in any way to Mutsila about the incident.
The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), three days after the event, has also come out against the assault of a media colleague, and assault it should be noted, at the hands of the sponsor of South Africa’s most prestigious journalism awards – the Standard Bank Sikuvile Awards.
SANEF has, however, been inaudible on the matter of Independent Media’s banking challenges by the self-same bank (and others in the country), who by executing their threat to terminate transactional banking facilities to the company, would be directly curtailing media freedom in South Africa.
“Independent Media stands with Lerato and supports the Daily Maverick’s decision to boycott the Sikuvile Awards,” confirmed Hartely.
“This is a time when our industry needs to stand together as a united front against the intimidation and abuse of the media by corporate and government bullies and anyone else bent on silencing the truth.”