Sanef 'concerned' by Lotteries Commission’s threat of criminal charges against journalists

2020-02-04 17:34
The National Lotteries Commission has funded three projects in Kuruman. (Raymond Joseph, GroundUp)

The National Lotteries Commission has funded three projects in Kuruman. (Raymond Joseph, GroundUp)

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The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) says it is deeply concerned by the National Lotteries Commission's (NLC) threat to lay criminal charges against journalists.

"Sanef believes that the threat to file criminal charges against a journalist and GroundUp – a Cape Town-based online publication - is deeply problematic," the media organisation said in a statement on Tuesday.

"It appears that these threats are being used to harass and intimidate GroundUp and its journalists to stop their reporting on malfeasance and corruption at the NLC," Sanef added.

This comes after GroundUp reported that the NLC gave the news organisation and journalist Raymond Joseph an ultimatum to stop writing stories about who it gives funding to.

READ: Lotteries Commission threatens GroundUp with charges after reports questioning project funding

In letters sent to GroundUp on January 30 and February 1, the NLC's lawyers claim that the recipients are secret to the public, and said the publication should remove 16 investigative reports by Joseph which raised questions over some project funding, News24 reported.

"Sanef understands that the NLC lawyers are claiming that Joseph and GroundUp have contravened regulation 8 of the Lotteries Act by revealing details of both grant applications and awarded grants. Sanef's understanding, however, is that this regulation pertains to so-called "distributing agencies" (a mechanism through which the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund adjudicates grant applications). GroundUp and Joseph are not distributing agencies," Sanef explained.

"This same regulation has also been used by the NLC to deny several requests filed under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA)."

This request followed a series of reports questioning some NLC grant allocations.

In addition, according to the publication, the NLC also appointed an independent investigator to probe the claims made in the articles and other allegations of alleged impropriety.

GroundUp has, however, refused to take any of the articles down.

Sanef said lottery funds are public funds and should therefore have transparency in its distribution.

"Further, the NLC is a public institution that is an agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. We thus call on Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel to urgently investigate this matter. Sanef will be seeking a meeting with him to discuss this matter further," the organisation said.

The NLC is part of the Department of Trade and Industry and is meant to regulate the national lottery and other lotteries.

Read more on:    sanef  |  media

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