Parliamentary committee slams intimidation of journalists

2017-07-03 13:31
RSG Afrikaans news producer Suna Venter speaks during an interview about her suspension by the SABC. (Deon Raath, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)

RSG Afrikaans news producer Suna Venter speaks during an interview about her suspension by the SABC. (Deon Raath, Gallo Images, Beeld, file)

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Cape Town - The portfolio committee on communications has condemned the recent intimidation of journalists, and has sent its condolences to the family of Suna Venter.

Committee chairperson Humphrey Maxegwana said the committee was saddened to hear of Venter's passing, adding that she had left an indelible legacy of speaking truth to power.

"The committee is aware of the extent to which her death is linked to the intimidation and torture she was subjected to when she formed part of the SABC 8.

"She will be laid to rest tomorrow, July 4, 2017. May her soul rest in eternal peace," Maxegwana said.

Venter was one of eight journalists who flagged issues of widespread misconduct at the SABC; that led to the parliamentary inquiry into the ailing public broadcaster.

READ: Journalist Suna Venter remembered as tenacious, fearless fighter

Unnatural stress

Her body was discovered in her flat in Fairland, Johannesburg, on Thursday morning, after being diagnosed with a cardiac condition known as stress cardiomyopathy, or "Broken Heart Syndrome", which can cause rapid and severe heart muscle weakness.

Her family believe her condition was caused by trauma and prolonged periods of unnatural stress, and exacerbated, if not caused, by months of intimidation during the inquiry process.

"Her flat was broken into on numerous occasions, the brake cables of her car were cut and her car's tyres were slashed. She was shot at and abducted - tied to a tree at Melville Koppies, while the grass around her was set alight," her family said.

The Democratic Alliance on Friday called on Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to update Parliament on investigations into the SABC 8 attacks.

The DA said it would write to Maxegwana to request that Mbalula be summoned to Parliament to provide an update, DA national spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said.

"It has been almost a year since the SABC 8 reported death threats, assaults, house break-ins, and many other sinister intimidation tactics following their legal action against the subverting of press freedom at the SABC by Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his acolytes mid-last year," Van Damme said.

"It is outrageous that, to date, not a single person has been arrested, or held accountable for these attacks."

Police spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga told News24 on Friday that the ministry must look into the progress of the SABC 8 cases.

Maxegwana, meanwhile, also condemned the "mob" who protested outside veteran editor Peter Bruce's house last week.

The committee welcomed Mbalula's promise to deal swiftly and harshly with further threats to journalists.

Read more on:    parliament  |  da  |  sabc  |  suna venter  |  cape town  |  media freedom

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