Police launch probe after 'continuous leaking of information to the media'

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Sharon Seretlo
  • Police have launched a probe into the leaking of documents to journalists.
  • The investigation comes after documents were allegedly leaked to Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm.
  • Thamm's home was burgled a day after the investigation was approved and two Daily Maverick laptops were stolen.

Police have launched an investigation into the "continuous leakage" of documents to the media. But it remains unclear whether journalists will also be investigated as part of the probe.

The investigation, confirmed by police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, seems to have been launched following allegations that a document had been leaked to Daily Maverick journalist Marianne Thamm.

In an editorial published on Friday, Daily Maverick revealed that a note had been sent to the "top echelon of Crime Intelligence and its Counter Intelligence desk" about the leaking of documents to journalists, specifically Thamm.

The editorial made the point that the document cited in the note had been submitted as part of a court application by Lieutenant General Peter Jacobs and, as such, was easily accessible.

Daily Maverick also revealed that the day after the note was sent, Thamm's house was burgled and two laptops bearing Daily Maverick stickers were stolen. The house was ransacked. While some smaller items of value, such as a ring, were stolen, many others were left behind.

ALSO READ | Jane Duncan | The unfinished business of fixing state spying and protecting journalists

The publication made it clear that it was not accusing anyone of the crime and that it had no proof that the break-in at Thamm's home was, in any way, linked to the note circulated to police the day before.

The editorial also made the point that: 

Spying on, and investigating, journalists who are just doing their job is not legal in South Africa. Prior authority for the surveillance of any person needs to be obtained from a designated judge. The bar for such permission, specifically in respect of journalists, has recently been raised, substantially by the Constitutional Court.

When News24 contacted Thamm she said that, while she didn't "want to be the story", the burglary had raised concerns that journalists were being targeted by the police.

News24 also contacted the police for comment about the investigation into the leaks, concerns about the surveillance and the investigation of journalists as well as the burglary of Thamm's house.

READ | 'Bugging' of News24 journalist receives attention of Inspector-General of Intelligence, RICA judge

To this inquiry, Naidoo said: "It is incumbent upon the SAPS to protect the sovereignty of the state. It has come to light in the recent past that there is continuous leaking of information to the media which brings into question the integrity of people from within the SAPS. With that being said, this leaking of information has prompted an investigation in an effort to protect the sovereignty of the state."

Nadioo also reiterated his message in Daily Maverick's article that "the fact that this latest document was leaked to [Daily Maverick] reinforces the need to investigate these leaks but this time, with even greater urgency".

When News24 pushed Naidoo to clarify if the investigation would extend to journalists, he said: "That's my response. It does not say anywhere in my response that journalists are under investigation. It talks about the integrity the of SAPS members being brought into question."

Naidoo declined to comment further.

Surveillance of News24 journalist

The investigation comes as Crime Intelligence acting head Lieutenant General Yolisa Mokgabudi asked for an investigation into allegations that News24 investigative journalist, Jeff Wicks, was illegally bugged.

It is believed the operation was launched to establish Wicks' sources through the use of a "grabber" - a device which can track and trace cellphones. Wicks has been covering disputes within the police and Crime Intelligence, following the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Charl Kinnear. 

When asked how the investigation into leaked documentation related to Mokgabudi's request, Naidoo said: "I know nothing about that. I was neither contacted for comment when News24 broke the story, nor was I informed about anything about this."

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