Sanef, CT Press Club condemn threats against Sunday Times journalist

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has condemned threats levelled against Sunday Times journalist Qaanitah Hunter.

"We believe these threats have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and access to information. This behaviour is particularly worrying in the lead up to our critical national elections in 2019," Sanef said in a statement on Monday. 

The forum's comments come after Hunter and fellow journalist Jeff Wicks were criticised for a front-page story published on Sunday, which claimed that there were plans by former president Jacob Zuma and his allies to oust President Cyril Ramaphosa and that these were discussed at a meeting in Durban last week.

Hunter also said she received threatening messages from the secretary general of the ANC Women's League (ANCWL), Meokgo Matuba, claiming that Matuba sent her a picture of a gun.

When asked if the picture was meant for her, Matuba responded that she didn't know who sent it because she shared a phone with many people.

READ: ANC rejects Sunday Times allegations of secret meeting plans to oust Ramaphosa

Hunter apparently received the threat after she called Matuba and asked questions about the Zuma meeting. 

"Sanef believes that the ANC and its various structures obviously have the right to criticise the media, point out inaccuracies and lay formal complaints with bodies such as the Press Council," Sanef deputy chairperson Kate Katopodis said. 

Sanef added that it believed that it was problematic when particular journalists were attacked on a personal level. 

Katopodis said Sanef strongly condemned what was a clear threat to the journalist despite the later apology that was issued.

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"We call on the ANC and all political parties to use the correct channels for complaints and to specifically protect."

But the ANC Women's League stated in a press statement that "it is also not surprising that Qaanitah is part of such lies. It seems she always believes figment (sic) of her imagination and she is becoming an embodiment of gutter journalism".

The Cape Town Press Club added that it would not stand aside when journalists were personally attacked and threatened, "particularly by political leaders who ought to be setting an example". 

"There are a number of proper channels in which to challenge the accuracy of a newspaper report. The ANCWL should be using these rather than going on a tirade that seriously draws into question its commitment to a free press," the press club added.

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