South African journalists attacked and threatened amid civil unrest, 4 radio stations looted

Lusaka, Zambia, July 13, 2021 – South African authorities must promptly and thoroughly investigate the recent attacks on media and journalists covering civil unrest in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Since July 4, protests have erupted in at least two provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, which began following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma but turned into widespread looting and riots, according to the news.

Protesters and looters attacked at least four community radio stations overnight and today and robbed and assaulted journalists covering the unrest in the past 10 days, according to reports and reporters who spoke with the CPJ.

“The riots and civil unrest in South Africa are the hottest news in the country, and the media must be free to cover them without fear of aggression so that the public can stay informed at such a crucial time,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. , At New York. “Even though they are working to put an end to the riots and looting, the police cannot turn a blind eye to the way journalists are attacked and threatened in the performance of their duties, and must be vigilant. that those who do are held to account. “

Late last night and early this morning, unidentified people attacked at least four radio stations across the country, ransacking their offices and forcing them to cut their broadcasts, according to the news, point of sale declarations, journalists who spoke to CPJ and a declaration by the South African National Editors’ Forum, an industry body made up of senior editors and journalists.

These points of sale include:

  • Alex FM, in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg
  • Mams Radio, in Mamelodi, northeast of Pretoria
  • West Side FM, in Kagiso, west of Johannesburg
  • Intokozo FM, in Durban

Alex FM station manager Takalane Nemangowe told CPJ via the messaging app that the attackers vandalized the station and “stripped everything from the radio station and left only papers.” He said a presenter and a security guard who were in the building at the time were able to escape unharmed.

Nemangowe added that an Alexandra supporter had offered her home for the use of the station, and he hoped she would return to air tomorrow.

Unidentified people vandalized Mams Radio’s transmitter, studios and offices and stole equipment from the station, according to a media statement, reviewed by CPJ, and the news. The station wrote it was not broadcast until further notice and said police were investigating the attack.

West Side FM CEO Goodhope Ledwaba said Eyewitness News that looters smashed the doors and windows of the station’s office and stole broadcasting equipment, including computers.

Intokozo FM posted photos on its Facebook page showing vandalism in his studio; the station, which normally broadcasts live on its Facebook page, has not posted any updates from those photos.

Separately, on July 3, in the town of Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal province, a member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association of the ruling African National Congress Party interrupted Samkele Maseko, political reporter for the public broadcaster SABC, while broadcasting a rally in support of former President Zuma, according to the news, video from this show, and another declaration by the publishers forum.

An unidentified man in camouflage uniform is seen in this video blocking the camera that was filming Maseko’s show and pushing it to the ground.

Also that day, Edward Zuma, the eldest son of the former president, threatened to burn one of the vehicles belonging to the 24-hour news channel eNCA parked in front of his father’s home, according to these sources. .

The next day, an unidentified Zuma supporter attacked Maseko while he was reporting outside Zuma’s home, according to this information and the forum’s statement.

The attacker accused Maseko of being a “bradeur” and of having tried to destroy the party leaders of the African National Congress, and slapped the journalist and tried to suffocate him, according to these sources. Sbu Ngalwa, the chairman of the editors’ forum, halted the attack and took Maseko to safety, according to the forum’s statement.

Maseko declined to speak to CPJ, saying his employer was pursuing the case. Phathiswa Magopeni, head of news and current affairs for the SABC group, did not respond to calls and several messages through the messaging app for comment.

On July 11, unidentified people stole their equipment from a SABC press team while covering protests in Alexandra, according to the Editors’ Forum and the news, including a report by SABC.

Also that day, unidentified people in the Johannesburg suburb of Hillbrow damaged a camera and a vehicle belonging to a press team from the privately-owned Newzroom Afrika television station, the sources said.

Newzroom Afrika’s news director Katy Katopodis told CPJ via a messaging app that looters smashed the vehicle’s windows and attempted to break into the car, bearing the station’s logo, and steal his radio and equipment from his trunk. She said the press team was not in the vehicle at the time and watched people try to break in; she said a person shot through the driver’s side door.

The reporting team recovered the vehicle later that day and was able to return it to the station, Katopodis said, adding that none of the journalists were injured in the incident.

Newzroom Afrika had not lodged a complaint with the police, Katopodis said, because “the police have their hands full right now, and we will do it once everything is settled.”

Also on July 11, protesters in KwaZulu-Natal threw stones at a SABC vehicle as journalists documented looting in the area, according to SABC reporter Jayde-Leigh Paulse, who was at the scene and said. spoke to CPJ through a messaging app. She said that no journalist had been injured by the rocks and that her employer had provided his team with helmets and bulletproof vests.

“We put the fear aside and run the cameras as journalists,” she said.

Separately, on July 11, in Jeppestown, Johannesburg, a protester threatened News 24 reporter Jeff Wicks with “you are going to die today,” Wicks told CPJ via a messaging app.

He said the protesters had sticks and stones but did not physically assault him; Wicks added that he believed looters threatened members of the press for filming their wrongdoing.

National Police spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent by CPJ through the messaging app. News 24 that each situation would be assessed and dealt with on its own merits.

For tips on how to cover civil unrest safely, see CPJ’s security notes on Physical Security: Civil Unrest.

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