Bid to improve how police interact with media

2015-07-17 08:09
(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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THE South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) is hoping to change how the police interacts with the media, with talks between the two at an “advanced stage”.

Sanef chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela said they have been talking to the police for just over two years in order to get greater clarity on, and change, an internal police policy known as Standing Order 156, which governs how police officers interact with journalists.

The order, in its current state, is clear that the media “may not be prohibited” from taking photographs or making visual recordings, “be verbally or physically abused”, or have “equipment … seized”.

Police may also not “willfully damage” equipment.

But Sanef and civil society groups believe there has been a marked increase in aggression towards journalists, citing cases from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

“Police commissioner Riah Phiyega has been very helpful. She does not condone the police’s behaviour.

“Our concern is that the standing order has not been filtering down to officers on the ground,” said Mkhabela.

He said it is hoped a new updated Standing Order will be ready by the end of the year.

“We will make sure all media houses have access to this. It will govern how journalists interact with and access information from the police, while demanding that the police respect the work of journalists.

“We then hope to have this policy adopted by the various metro police services who do not fall under the command structure of the SAPS,” said Mkhabela.

This week non-profit lobby organisation Right2Know released a document outlining the rights of journalists when taking photographs or images of the police.

The document, titled “The right to take photos and the police”, is expected to act as an advisory for both media workers and citizen journalists.

It said the review between the police and defence force will hopefully expand the order to also “cover the rights of citizen journalists”, who R2K believes are the most vulnerable as they are often made up of independent community journalists and bloggers.

R2K’s Micah Reddy said the current Standing Order is “ambiguous”.

“We have seen a spike in harassment cases against the media. It is widespread,” said Reddy.

He said they are compiling a record of police harassment cases against media personnel reported to them and, will in time, make it public.

Recently KZN SAPS spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane told The Witness that “filming of police by the public” while executing their duties “is not allowed” on the basis that the SAPS have their “own camera operators”

Read more on:    police  |  saps  |  sanef

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