Zuma wants VIP bullies probe

2010-03-17 22:45

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has requested a report from the SA Police Service on an incident between his protection unit and an Eyewitness News reporter, his office said on Wednesday.

Earlier, it was reported that 702 Eyewitness News reporter Tshepo Lesole was grabbed by bodyguards and forced to delete pictures he had taken while Zuma was visiting the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on Tuesday.

"The Presidency recognises the need for the media to be able to freely and effectively cover the president's activities.

"They should be able to exercise their constitutional rights unhindered," Zuma's spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said in a statement.

"The Presidency also recognises that the PPU (presidential protection unit) has a responsibility to guarantee the president's safety at all times, and to take all reasonable and necessary measures to ensure his security is not compromised."

Workshop between media, Saps

Magwenya said Zuma's protection was the responsibility of the Saps and the presidency played "no direct role in this function".

He said the presidency was discussing a proposal for a workshop between the presidential protection unit and the media with the Saps.

The Professional Journalists' Association (PJA) said the actions of Zuma's bodyguards, in forcing a journalist to delete pictures of the presidential cavalcade, harked back to apartheid era "thuggery and censorship".

"As a member of the press, Lesole is fully entitled to take pictures of the presidential cavalcade (as is any member of the public).

Sanef saddened

"That he was detained for doing so, and forced to delete the images, harks back to apartheid-era thuggery and censorship," said the newly-formed PJA.

They called on the police, whether they were VIP units or not, to respect the rights of working journalists, and wanted the bodyguards to be held accountable.

The SA National Editors Forum said it was saddened that the incident came several weeks after meetings with the minister, deputy minister and national commissioner of police to discuss police harassment of journalists.

Sanef had received strong commitments that police would not hamper journalists in doing their work, with National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele saying: "We must allow both parties (media and the police) to do their work without any problems."