Dros rape trial: State witness allegedly threatens journalists

A witness in the Dros rape trial has approached journalists and threatened them for naming him.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) says it is concerned with the increase in harassment of journalists, not only by authorities and politicians but by the public as well.

The editors forum said this after three journalists who were covering the Nicholas Ninow rape trial in Pretoria were allegedly threatened by a State witness on Tuesday.

READ | Dros rape: Child gives a different sequence of events to Ninow's

News24 journalist Alex Mitchley, Hanti Otto from Netwerk24 and eTV's Pule Letshwiti were approached by the witness who was apparently angry that media houses had named him.

According to Mitchley, the witness questioned why media houses had named him and it was explained that there was no court order not to name the witness as he testified in an open court.

The witness then told the journalists that he would slit their throats, making a throat-slitting gesture while laughing and smiling.

"I told him to leave us alone and would inform the court of his threats. He tried following us to apologise but I told him to get away from me as he had just threatened our lives," Mitchley said.

The forum said it noted that while retaliation for the content of professional output is common to all journalists, female journalists were facing an additional burden in that they are also attacked purely based on their gender.

"Sanef wishes to caution against impunity for threats of any nature and crimes against the media because it fuels and perpetuates the cycle of violence and the resulting self-censorship deprives society of information and further affects press freedom.

"It also directly impacts the United Nations’ human rights-based efforts to promote peace, security, and sustainable development," Sanef said in a statement.

The forum added that it has noted the public debate on social media aimed at Radio 702 and Eyewitness News senior journalist, Barry Bateman for an expletive allegedly aimed at EFF leader Julius Malema.

READ | Journalist Barry Bateman pulled from air after expletive aimed at Malema, EFF rejects apology

On Tuesday the broadcaster apologised Malema. The EFF however rejected the apology calling it "lukewarm", News24 reported.

Sanef said while it did not condone "unprofessional" behavior from journalists, it believed that the incident should not be used as an excuse to trigger an "all-out attack on media and journalists as a collective".

"Sanef notes the concerns raised by the supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). We also note that employer Primedia has apologised and has launched an investigation into the matter.

"Rather than a verdict being debated on social media we ask that this matter be dealt with via the media house concerned."

Bateman was taken off air immediately after Primedia was made aware of the video and it would hold an internal probe to deal with the matter appropriately, the broadcaster said.

The incident happened when Malema was addressing the media following a meeting with the Hawks on Tuesday.

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