Sanef condemns attack on journalists by alleged taxi association members

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(iStock)
(iStock)

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has condemned the assault of a journalist allegedly by taxi association members.

In the incident in Embalenhle, Secunda, on Thursday, freelance journalist Desmond Latham as well as a female staff member from Frayintermedia and female Unicef employee were assaulted allegedly by members of a local taxi association.

On Thursday afternoon, Latham and his colleagues were filming a project for Unicef on children in Embalenhle township.

They had been unaware that there was a conflict between the local VUKTA taxi association and local bus company Megabus, he said.

"We had stopped at the side of the road (at the corner of the R546 and Embalenhli Road) to film Secunda. The men out of the blue assaulted us. We had no idea what was going on other than they were criminals engaged in a robbery - and they were extremely angry and determined to assault journalists.

"It was only when we arrived at the police station that the SAPS informed us of the tension and the road had been a flashpoint for taxi drivers who had been gathering there for a few days forcing people out of buses."

Latham in a statement released by Sanef said there has been no report about this story and that they were attacked without warning.

"The police are involved because the Unicef person is from Brazil," said Latham in a statement released by Sanef.

"These men are punching women. They appear to be hired by the association. There was no anger or even a sign of any trouble before we were attacked. The taxi company is targeting reporters."

While the victims were not seriously injured, the attackers stole their Canon D5 and lens and damaged their vehicle.

Sanef believed the intention was to intimidate journalists to make them reluctant to write, research or speak about the violence in the taxi industry in Mpumalanga.

"Sanef is deeply concerned that journalists are increasingly facing violence and intimidation for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression in this country. Women journalists face specific dangers and are especially vulnerable and sometimes subjected to mob-related violence when covering public events, often in reprisal for their work," it said.

"As a result, they suffer from trauma and the emotional impact of experiencing physical attacks which lead to anxiety, insomnia, irritation and or post-traumatic stress disorder, which can cause incapacitating feelings of horror, fear and despair."

A case of assault and robbery was opened at the Embalenhle police station. 

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