Dept clarifies rift with journalist

2014-01-30 00:00

A DECISION by a court manager at Ntuzuma that journalists should sign a form applying for “permission to take notes in a high-profile case” was not intended to infringe the rights of journalists, the Justice Department said yesterday.

Department of Justice spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga was responding to a report that a Sapa journalist was told on Tuesday that he could not attend court proceedings with his laptop and without first having obtained written permission to take notes in court.

The journalist objected and after discussion with senior court officials about the right of the media to attend court hearings, he was allowed to continue taking notes without seeking permission.

The case being covered was that of Tshepang Mokhali, who is charged with the murder of a tuckshop owner and her five children in their home.

A copy of the form that a number of journalists at the trial were asked to complete, required them to provide the date, their name and the name of their company.

It stated; “I require to be granted permission to take notes in the criminal courtroom during the proceedings in respect of a high-profile case involving …”

The form also asked journalists to “certify” that the case was in the public interest, and further stated they should attach a copy of an identification document reflecting the name of their company.

Mhaga yesterday told The Witness that he had confirmed the existence of the form with the head of the court. He said, however, the form was used as a “control measure for accreditation of journalists especially in high-profile cases which attract public interest and a host of reporters”.

“In the light of limited accommodation within the courtrooms it’s important that journalists are allowed preferential access in the court, but this has to be controlled, thus the use of the application for permission to take photos and use devices in the courtroom.

“There is no intention to infringe the rights of journalists, as media play a critical role in the fight against crime,” Mhaga said.

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