Cape court hears of bogus UK journo
Cape Town - Freelance journalist Raymond Joseph was furious upon realising he was misled by alleged bogus British reporter Shumsheer Singh Ghumman, the Regional Court in Cape Town heard on Wednesday.
Joseph testified at Ghumman's trial on charges of fraud, incitement to commit murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property.
On the fraud charge, Ghumman is alleged to have fraudulently pretended to be a British freelance photo-journalist, with an assignment to do a picture-story about gangster violence in Cape Town.
He pretended at first to be Michael Attwood, and then Michael Kirkham.
In this way, he allegedly duped Joseph as well as Steve Kretzman, editor of the news agency West Cape News (WCN), as well as WCN reporter Sandiso Phaliso, into introducing him to gangsters involved in violent crime.
Prosecuting counsel Billy Downer alleges Ghumman's true intention was to find a "hitman" to petrol bomb the Clifton home of Philip Rhind, father of United Kingdom PR executive, Hannah Rhind.
The father had asked Ghumman to stop harassing his daughter.
Joseph told the court he had received an e-mail from Michael Attwood, requesting Joseph to arrange a meeting for him with Cape Flats gangsters, for the purpose of the assignment.
Joseph said the practice of arranging such introductions was known in journalism as "fixing", for which a fee was charged.
The practice was very common in Johannesburg, he said.
Journalists in danger
He said he did not know Attwood from a bar of soap, nor had he heard of him before.
He said the e-mails contained all the correct journalistic phraseology, and he had no reason to believe it was bogus.
Joseph said Attwood later informed him that a Michael Kirkham would be doing the assignment instead.
Joseph then passed the e-mails on to Kretzman, whose reporter, Phaliso, was better positioned to organise meetings with gangsters.
The court heard Phaliso in fact took Kirkham to meet gangsters.
Joseph told the court: "The next thing, Kretzman phoned me to say he was very annoyed because Kirkham had only paid part of the agreed fixing fee, and had then disappeared off the face of the earth."
He later received another call from Kretzman.
"[He] said I won't believe what's happened, and that Kirkham had been arrested."
Joseph said he did not know that Kirkham was in fact Ghumman.
He said the use of pseudonyms in journalism was frowned upon, especially undercover operations such as doing stories under a false name.
"What concerns me is that this kind of undercover operation places journalists in danger," Joseph said.
The trial continues on Thursday.