Attacks on journalists condemned

2011-08-30 21:31 Johannesburg - National Press Club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee said on Tuesday attacks on at least five journalists during a gathering in support of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema had been "totally unacceptable.

"It shows total disrespect for the role of the media and we condemn this disrespect and the violence in the strongest terms," said Abramjee after crowds who had gathered in support of Malema ahead of his disciplinary hearing targeted journalists recording the event.

"What we have seen today (on Tuesday) does not bode well for the future of media freedom and all South Africans need to stand up against it."

As eNews was broadcasting live footage, some members of the crowd suddenly turned on the media as they gathered at Beyers Naude Square. Their reporter Cathy Mohlahlana had to take cover and, according to Patrick Conroy, group head of eNews, parts of the cameraman's cable was grabbed and stolen.

"My understanding is that a lot of our cabling and visual equipment were disconnected and stolen.

"... It's a sad day when the media is not allowed to do its job," he said. A window of an eNews van was also broken.

Sapa journalists on the scene said at least five members of the media - including Sapa photographer Werner Beukes, two eNews journalists Belinda Moses and Mohlahlana, the Star photographer Boxer Ngwenya and Citizen photographer Michel Bega - were hit by rocks thrown at them.

They were also groped by the youths, they said.


Sapa editor Mark van der Velden confirmed that Beukes had been hit in the back by a rock thrown by unruly elements in the crowd, but he was not badly injured.

"This is clearly a case of assault. I will be following this matter up through the appropriate channels," said Van der Velden.

Speaking in his role as group head of news at Primedia, Abramjee also said an EWN reporter Andrea van Wyk had repeatedly been called a bitch and sworn at and groped while she was covering events.

"Our journalists narrowly escaped injury. One reporter's microphone wire was pulled away."

On Wednesday afternoon, Malema told the crowd at Beyers Naude Square: "You cannot throw stones at journalists because journalists are just messengers... if you attack journalists, you will lose public sympathy."

He also asked them not to attack the police.

"The police are not your enemy. These are the people employed to protect you," said Malema.

The Cape Town Press Club said it was deeply disturbed by reports of journalists being attacked.

"We condemn these attacks and call on the crowds in question to respect the democratic right of journalists to carry out their duties without hindrance."

SA National Editors Forum deputy chairperson on media ethics Raymond Louw said: "We are certainly very worried about it indeed.

"We will certainly protest. But of course one is dealing with an unmanaged demonstration."

One person was arrested in connection with turning over a rubbish bin, metro police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said.