Media detained, photos deleted at Free State prison

Free State prison officials detained journalists, confiscated their equipment and deleted photographs of warders assaulting a prisoner, according to reports.

This was all during a visit yesterday by Parliament’s portfolio committee on correctional services to the Groenpunt maximum security prison outside Deneysville in the Free State, where inmates rioted last week.

The media was invited to accompany the committee, reported The Star and Sowetan newspapers.

During the visit, journalists witnessed prison warders beating a prisoner.

“Through the fence, we saw a mob of warders assaulting a man dressed in orange garb – apparently a defenceless prisoner – who squirmed and groaned in pain,” reported The Star journalists.

“...we saw them passing the man around in a circle, brutally beating him.”

News photographers took pictures as it happened.

“Then they took him [the prisoner] away, and came for us. What happened next was an hour-long traumatic experience that left us feeling like terrorists.”

Several journalists and photographers were detained, body-searched and had their cellphones and cameras confiscated.

After about an hour, they were released and handed back their equipment but one of The Star’s photographer’s memory stick was held back. Also, all photographs – even those unrelated to the prison beating – had been deleted.

Regional correctional services commissioner for the Free State and Northern Cape, Subashni Moodley, told The Star’s editor, Makhudu Sedara, that the photographers had violated an earlier agreement not to move from where they were stationed or take pictures.

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