Cape Town photographer kept in holding cells for doing his job

2015-05-04 19:15
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Cape Town - A Cape Town photographer was arrested after taking photos at an accident scene on Monday morning and kept in a holding cell for around four hours, allegedly without being told what he was charged with.

Foto24 photographer Jaco Marais, 38, arrived at Sir Lowry Road, opposite the Good Hope Centre, around 10:00, where a male pedestrian had been knocked down and killed.

He told News24 he identified himself to the police as a press photographer, showed them his ID card and was told that he was not allowed to take photos. He said he was standing behind the tape that cordoned the scene off.

“I asked them on which grounds. They basically told me a story and I told them that in accordance with [police] standing orders, I am allowed to take photos,” he said.

The officer in charge of the scene then apparently ordered that he be arrested.

Marais said he was put into the back of a police van where he waited for five minutes. He had his phone on him and contacted his office to let them know what was happening.

He was taken to Cape Town central police station, where he was kept in a holding cell until 14.30.

Marais said the arresting officer took his details, escorted him to a different office with a number of officers inside and then said he was free to go, presumably thanks to the intervention of lawyers acting on behalf of his organisation.

Marais told News24 that he was not given an answer at any stage as to what charge he was being arrested for.

While he had been placed in the back of van in similar incidents before, which he described as a “scaring tactic”, he had never been kept in a cell.

Harassment

Yunus Mohamed, who heads the Foto24 department in Cape Town, said police officers harassing photographers happened “far too often”.

“People with cellphones can take pictures and nobody does anything. We are the responsible photographers who wait until the body is covered before we take the pictures, but we are hassled just because we are from the media.”

Mohamed said the police needed to get their act together on media freedom and rights. He also felt it was a waste of police resources to use a van to transport Marais.

“Our lawyer is now busy with the editors to discuss what we are going to do about it,” he told News24.

Western Cape police confirmed that a journalist was taken to the station, but did not respond on further details about the charge.

"At the time of the incident, the police had to remove a journalist from the accident scene as they were busy extending cordoning off perimeter. The journalist was released later at the police station,” Captain Frederick van Wyk said.

He said the victim at the scene was a 78-year-old man from Walmer Estate, who was knocked down in the middle of the road by an oncoming vehicle. A case of culpable homicide was registered.

Sanef recently bemoaned the harassment of journalists and photographers by members of the SA Police Service and other authorities.

In a letter to National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega on Thursday, Sanef executive director Mathatha Tsedu asked her to issue an order to her officers indicating that this type of behaviour was "unbecoming, wrong, undesirable and reprehensible in a democracy such as ours".

Read more on:    saps  |  cape town  |  media  |  crime

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