No Daily Dispatch threats reported - police

2015-05-15 17:17

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East London - Eastern Cape police have not had any cases opened regarding threats made against senior staff of the Daily Dispatch newspaper, they said on Friday.

"As far as the alleged threat level at the Daily Dispatch and its personnel, SAPS hasn't received any reported cases up to so far," spokesperson Lieutenant Khaya Tonjeni said.

"We will take action on this issue when we have something that is reported. If there is something reported, we will take action from there."

Earlier on Friday, the DA said police must investigate threats made against senior staff at the newspaper.

"Allegations of threats on the lives of senior staff at the Daily Dispatch newspaper, including its editor Bongani Siqoko are a cause for serious concern and require urgent investigation by the South African Police Services [SAPS]," national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said in a statement.

"The threats coincide with the newspaper’s consistent reporting on corruption in the province... Yesterday [Thursday], in a statement, the ANC accused the newspaper of a media plot to 'tarnish' and 'collapse' the Eastern Cape government."

She said according to Siqoko, security experts had since confirmed the threats against the newspaper's senior staff were credible, with the newspaper's owners boosting security for all affected staff.

"This matter now needs to be investigated by SAPS to determine the person[s] behind the threats, and the perpetrators prosecuted. Threats on the lives of journalists are not only criminal, but an assault on media freedom as enshrined in the Bill of Rights," Van Damme said.

"Intimidation and threats of violence against the media cannot be tolerated in a constitutional democracy."

On Thursday, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement the party had for decades championed the freedom of the press, having played a major role in shaping South Africa's Constitution. The Constitution protected media freedom, media diversity, and freedom of expression among other rights.

"While the ANC will not deviate from ensuring an atmosphere of a vibrant diverse and free media in South Africa, it will equally challenge any abuse of this freedom. Abuse of media freedom is no different to the abuse of other freedoms protected by the Constitution," Kodwa said.

"It is against this background that the ANC has noted with shock and dismay a well–orchestrated media plot by the Daily Dispatch at its 'bosberaad' planning for 2015/16 year to tarnish Eastern Cape premier and collapse [the] Eastern Cape provincial government."

Leaked documents

He said the party had received a "leaked" document which included "several damning plans" for the newspaper to spy on the ANC Eastern Cape chairperson Phumullo Masualle. Another section of the document apparently titled "The Opposition", stated "Is there something that they are coming up with? Can we work with them?"

Kodwa said this obviously meant against the ANC and the ANC government.

The ruling party called upon media houses to adhere to known media ethics that contributed to the developmental trajectory of South Africa. 

"The ANC has never sought to muzzle the press, will never and does not intend to do so," he said.

"All that it expects from the media, is factual, accurate and unbiased reporting, which does not border on sensationalism or defamation of character."

The ANC would also seek an urgent meeting with the SA National Editors Forum to discuss the matter.

Later on Thursday, the newspaper's editor Bongani Siqoko issued a statement where it said the document Kodwa was referring to does not exist.

"The newspaper also did not hold a 'bosberaad' as claimed by the ANC. Consequently the Daily Dispatch has nothing to do with the document the ANC claims to have in its possession," Siqoko said.

"We are disappointed that the ANC elected not to confront the Daily Dispatch with these allegations, which we would have directly refuted."

'False accusations'

He said the newspaper were also confronted with "false accusations" that they were spying on the province's Premier Masualle.

"This accusation was formally raised this week when officials from the premier’s office visited our newsroom to discuss our continuing working relationship. Incidentally the meeting was cordial and fruitful," Siqoko said.

"The ANC statement coincides with consistent information that the safety of some of the Daily Dispatch’s senior staff, including the editor, is in danger. Security experts have since confirmed that these threats are credible and need to be taken seriously."

He said the newspaper had never been driven by an agenda or political affiliation. Their daily motivation was the relentless pursuit of the truth, which entailed holding those in power accountable. 

"To that end, we remain unbending," he said.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  east london  |  crime  |  media

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