Global media rights body slates ANC ‘intimidation’ of City Press

2012-05-31 11:21

An international media rights organisation has castigated President Jacob Zuma for what it says has been a “campaign of harassment and intimidation” against City Press.

In a statement yesterday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned “acts of intimidation and threats against City Press, as they undermine the rule of law in South Africa and curtail the freedom of the press to report on speech critical of authorities”.

The committee’s Mohamed Keita said: “As head of the ANC and the ruling coalition, President Jacob Zuma must call his supporters to restraint.

“We hold the government responsible for the safety of the staff of City Press.”

This came after the national controversy over the depiction of Zuma with his genitals exposed by artist Brett Murray in his painting, The Spear.

Yesterday, the Goodman Gallery, where the painting was on display before it was defaced, announced that it had reached a settlement with the ANC over the portrait.

While the gallery acknowledged the “hurt” the painting had caused, the ANC agreed to withdraw its urgent court application for an order compelling the Goodman Gallery and City Press to remove the painting’s image from their websites.

This news was widely reported by international media, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The Committee to Protect Journalists noted calls to boycott City Press as well as the fact that a City Press reporter was obstructed from covering a local union meeting.

It also noted that City Press editor Ferial Haffajee decided to remove the picture from its website on Monday.

“Haffajee told CPJ today that she had received a letter from a government official that said the paper’s coverage could instigate a race war,” said Keita.

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