The Bulletin received calls from concerned friends and colleagues regarding an alleged assault on the editor, Encee van Huyssteen. He was told that a journalist was assaulted by a group of people on Thursday night. While the editor has received threats and even death threats it never resulted in violence against any of The Bulletin’s staff members. The Bulletin has earned a reputation for bringing news from danger areas and will continue to do so.
Attacking journalists would not help the cause of the people.
The Bulletin obtained a press statement from The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) regarding the assault of a freelance journalist and two other people, one of which represents UNICEF.
The statement is placed as received!
SANEF Statement:
February 8, 2020
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) condemns, in the strongest terms, the physical assault of Frayintermedia journalist, Desmond Latham; a female staff member; and a female employee from UNICEF by a group of men at eMbalenhle township near Secunda on Thursday evening.
At about 4.45 pm on Thursday, Latham and his colleagues were filming a project for UNICEF on children in eMbalenhle township. They had no idea that there was a conflict about an ongoing battle at eMbalenhle township where the VUKTA taxi association is fighting a local bus company, Megabus.
“We had stopped at the side of the road (corner R546 and eMbalenhle road) to film Secunda. The men out of the blue assaulted us. We had no idea what was going on other than they were criminals engaged in a robbery – and they were extremely angry and determined to assault journalists.”
“It was only when we arrived at the police station that the SAPS informed us of the tension and the road had been a flashpoint for taxi drivers who had been gathering there for a few days forcing people out of buses.
“There has been no report about this (story), and we were attacked without warning… Police were involved because the UNICEF person is from Brazil,” said Latham.
“These men are punching women. They appear to be (allegedly) hired by the association… The taxi company is targeting reporters,” he said.
SANEF is deeply concerned that journalists are increasingly facing violence and intimidation for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression in this country. Women journalists face specific dangers and are especially vulnerable and sometimes subjected to mob-related violence when covering public events, often in reprisal for their work.
As a result, they suffer from trauma and the emotional impact of experiencing physical attacks which lead to anxiety, insomnia, irritation and or post-traumatic stress disorder, which can cause incapacitating feelings of horror, fear and despair.
SANEF was told that while the victims were not severely hurt, the attackers stole their Canon 5D and lens and damaged their vehicle.
Lathan 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 believes that the intention was to intimidate journalists so that they are reluctant to write, research or speak about the territorial battle and violence in the taxi industry in Mpumalanga.
SANEF joins 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 the protection of journalists allows journalists and media professionals to receive, produce and share information without facing physical or moral threats.


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