Female journalist manhandled

2018-07-18 06:01
On Thursday (12/07), during the protest action in Kimberley, fleeing protesters were dispersed by the police in the quiet Du Toitspan Road when they opened fire on them, apparently with rubber bullets. The protesters were found sitting in the middle of the road in front of the ANC office.Photos: Boipelo Mere

On Thursday (12/07), during the protest action in Kimberley, fleeing protesters were dispersed by the police in the quiet Du Toitspan Road when they opened fire on them, apparently with rubber bullets. The protesters were found sitting in the middle of the road in front of the ANC office.Photos: Boipelo Mere

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World Press Freedom Day was celebrated by the United Nations Educational, Scienti­fic and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in May under the global theme “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law”.

That was where issues of the media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public were covered.

Even after the 25th celebration of press freedom, my big question remains whether there is indeed a breakthrough after the realisation that contemporary challenges of ensuring press freedom continue, more especially under vulnerable situations by journalists.

The question weighing on my mind is how the status of a female journalist in the industry is being compromised, and what society’s know­ledge is of our role.

I have been mishandled by society many times, but my recent encounter with members of the South African Police Service is the most unacceptable manner that I have experienced so far.

According to my observation they used my vulnerabi­lity to their advantage, and to prove their superiority as gun carrying members, while all I had was my camera as a working tool.

I also ask myself whether it is purely ignorance of the law by some police officers.

It was during Thursday’s (12/07) protest action in Kimberley when the three police officers ganged up on me. They forced me to delete footage which I took while they were shooting what I believed were rubber bullets at protesters who were sitting in the middle of the road in front of the ANC provincial office in Du Toits­pan Road.

Sitting protesters were chased by the shooting police from the Sol Plaatje Municipality building, after a clash due to stone throwing.

At the scene, we were two journalists, of which the other was a male. The male police officer confronted the male journalist and demanded to know why we are taking pictures.

Upon realisation that they were about to shoot, we ran towards the direction of the police on the pavement, for safety. We told the police officer that we were journalists, and when he realised that I was about to take more pictures, he stormed at me demanding that I delete the footage immediately, which I refused.

He angrily grabbed my camera and tried to delete the footage, pressing buttons and looking frustra­ted, seemingly trying to break the lens with his hands.

A female police officer approached us and also started shouting at me and demanded that I delete the pictures, which I again refused to do, telling them that I was doing my job.

By then the focus was on me as the street was empty, except for us and the police officers.

The male journalist, who tried to intervene, ended up walking away.

The woman threatened to arrest me, grabbed me by the shoulder and dragged me to the police van, where they tried to shove me into the van, shouting at me to get in as I was under arrest.

My feet was still on the road with a part of my body in the van. The female officer continued to shout that I must get into the van. I kept protesting and wanted to know why I was being arrested.

During this time they were still tampering with my camera, trying to delete photos and not knowing how.

I refused to show them the delete button, but pressed the video recording one.

The focus was now on me as another male officer who joined them, was holding the door as if he was waiting for me to get in so that he can close the door.

This male officer then grabbed my tablet out of my hand and suggested that they also check it to see whether I have not been recording with it.

I ended up deleting something on my camera in front of them as I was at threat and they let me go.

Upon arrival at the office I realised that I did not delete the footage that I needed to bring these officers to book.

The management of the SAPS in the Northern Cape point out that it is not the policy of the police to manhandle the media in any way, and that an investigation will be conducted on this matter.

Brig. Mohale Ramatseba promises that drastic steps will be taken against any member of the police pointed out for wrongdoing after the conclusion of the investigation.

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