The SA National Editors Forum on Friday said it would follow up and ensure action is taken against a police officer who manhandled a Times Media journalist‚ confiscated her phone and wiped it of all its contents.
The journalist‚ Katharine Child‚ was covering President Jacob Zuma’s attendance at a religious event arranged by the Gupta family on Thursday evening.
Sanef’s media freedom sub-committee chairperson Sam Mkokeli encouraged the reporter to open a case‚ saying the forum was shocked that the officer displayed “shocking behaviour”.
“South Africa is a democratic nation and journalists need to be allowed to operate without being harassed and intimidated‚” Mkokeli said.
“It is in line with an unfortunate trend which we have been seeing‚” said Mkokeli‚ adding that the police “failed to follow their own rules and regulations”.
The Times editor Andrew Trench said: “The treatment of our journalist is despicable bullying and is contrary to the police’s own Standing Order 156 which prevents the police from stopping a journalist taking pictures or any visual recording.
“The standing order is clear that under no circumstances may a journalist be verbally or physically assaulted nor their recordings damaged. Their equipment cannot be seized unless to be used as an exhibit. We will be laying criminal charges.”
Child said security guards had allowed her into the premises of the Military Museum in Saxonwold but she was turned away at the venue’s entrance.
A man in plain clothes‚ who said he was a policeman and told her his name was Morne‚ told her to leave when she identified herself as a journalist. She queried this and he then grabbed her phone.
“He told me to go. He put his arm around my neck and pushed me and then I said I’m not leaving until you give me my phone back‚” said Child.
He had threatened to arrest her and at one point motioned to the hand cuffs tied to his trousers. The man had then phoned someone and said that she had taken photographs of the event on her phone.
“I did not take any pictures because it was dark. But he deleted everything from my phone – all my apps‚ all my photos‚ all my phone numbers.”
He then returned the phone to her but security refused to let her back into the premises so that she could get to her car.
“He told me to get out the way because the presidential motorcade is leaving‚” she said.