Sanef goes to the top with complaints
Johannesburg - The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) wants illegal assaults on and arrests of journalists dealt with by the highest authority.
"Sanef condemns two outrageous illegal police attacks on press photographers in Pretoria and Bloemfontein while they were carrying out their duties of informing the public by picturing incidents in the two cities...," it said in a statement on Sunday.
Sanef said it had complained to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and national police commissioner General Bheki Cele on more than one occasion about the some dozen similar illegal arrests in the last 18 months.
However, all these cases had been thrown out of court, it said.
It wanted the police responsible charged in court and punished.
In the first recent incident, Pretoria News chief photographer Masi Losi was taking pictures of police arresting a suspected thief when the police tried to take his camera from him.
Police tried to arrest him, accusing him of interfering with their work.
It was only when the newspaper's executive editor Jos Charle phoned Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petros that police let Losi go.
In the second incident, in Bloemfontein, Volksblad photographer Theo Jephta took pictures of a group of schoolchildren fighting while the police sat nearby, without taking action.
When Jephta started taking pictures, the police grabbed him and bundled him into the back of their vehicle and drove off. After making a phone call, the police let him go.
Sanef said the actions of the police were, in both instances, illegal.
"Sanef believes that despite its complaints at high level, the police have not been informed of the contents of police standing orders which instruct police officers to aid journalists covering public incidents - just the opposite to assaulting and arresting them.
"Sanef believes that this continuing illegal conduct by the police against the press - which in the Pretoria instance forced the staff to bar the police entry to their building - has taken on such alarming and serious proportions that they merit intervention at the highest level of government."
Sanef said it would also send its protest to President Jacob Zuma, reminding him that the police conduct constituted not only serious criminal offence, but contravened the key Freedom of the Press clause in the Constitution.