Subpoena against e.tv infringes media freedom

2010-01-21 10:01

ISSUING a subpoena against eNews to identify criminals who were

interviewed on air on their plans to target the 2010 World Cup infringes media

freedom and freedom of speech, the SA Press Council has said.

“The police, using laws that existed under apartheid, are seeking

to circumvent the journalists’ right to report without fear, and the public’s

right to know by issuing this subpoena,” said council vice-chairperson Bewyn

Petersen in a letter published in Business Day.

He was responding to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s move to

subpoena two eNews journalists to reveal the identity of the men who made their

criminal intentions known in an interview aired last Friday.

A source linked to the story has since committed suicide.

“I am dismayed that I have not seen anyone in government, including

the opposition, oppose this action (the subpoena).

“If the police are successful, it may prevent journalists from

having access to similar situations in the future and may even endanger their

lives,” Petersen said.

e.tv has declined, on legal advice, to say how it plans to respond

to the subpoenas to reveal its sources. Its news editor Ben Said and reporter

Mpho Lakaje have to appear in court on Monday if they fail to comply.

The channel said on Tuesday that a man found dead in Soweto was the

one who had connected the reporters with the self-confessed criminals

interviewed.

It implied in a statement that only he had known their true

identities.

The Hawks initially believed the dead man was one of the men shown

on air with his face masked. They were continuing their investigation into the

case.

Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said: “If he was leading them, who

did he lead them to?”.

Police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi said on Wednesday the police

had not withdrawn the subpoenas and called on the public to come forward with

any information that could help police identify the men interviewed on air.


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