Police clash with Joburg residents, News24 reporter caught in crossfire

SAPS wearing masks amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19. (Marco Longari, AFP)
SAPS wearing masks amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19. (Marco Longari, AFP)

A News24 reporter was caught in the crossfire when police fired rubber bullets to disperse pockets of people loitering in the streets of Yeoville, Johannesburg on day one of the nationwide lockdown.

It is unclear whether those who came under fire were on essential business as stipulated in the lockdown regulations.

News24 reporter Azarrah Karrim was on the scene filming the incident on a nearby street, when pedestrians suddenly started running to safety after being fired on by the police.

As an officer stood at the entrance of a house aiming his gun inside a property, he noticed Karrim recording and ran towards the journalist, calling over his colleagues.

In the video, multiple shots can be heard being fired at Karrim, despite her shouting "I'm media" to police.

One shot was fired at close range, completely missing her. She was not hurt in the incident

After screaming frantically she was part of the media, the officers lowered their guns, asking: "Why didn't you tell us this?"

Struggling

They told the reporter after the shooting they were struggling to keep everyone indoors and ordered her to leave the scene.

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has written a formal complaint to the police about this incident. 

Members of the media are considered part of the essential services, which are allowed to be out in the streets during the lockdown.

Sanef's acting Gauteng convenor, Hopewell Radebe, told News24 this was the third incident on day one of the lockdown it was aware of.

"We have already seen three videos that show police [figuratively] shoot first and ask questions later," he said.

One incident took place in the Western Cape involving police and a photographer, while the other saw a journalist in a yet unidentified area being threatened while recording the police and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members clamping down on people drinking beer in public.

It was surprising it was the police and not SANDF members who were involved, Radebe said, especially since Sanef had negotiated with the police's central command to allow journalists to do their work without restrictions.

"But when one looks at these videos, they didn't even get to asking for [identification]."

These cases, Radebe said, had been forwarded to the national police commissioner for his attention.

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