In the latest incident, a news reporter and camera operator from ETV were robbed at gun point, by armed robbers, at Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
TV journalist Natalie Malgas told Sanef that it was one of the “scariest days” in her entire career. She and cameraman Lance Manjoro had finished interviewing community leaders in the township on Monday, as part of the service delivery election coverage, when they were robbed outside a local primary school.
“Two of the robbers had guns and the one who appeared to be the ringleader cocked a weapon in my face. They shouted that we hand over our phones, laptops and camera. They then cleaned out our boot, taking everything insight including our tripod bag and other belongings and fled on foot. One robber came back and grabbed a phone charger”.
The journalists got into their vehicles and stopped a nearby police patrol for help. The matter was reported at the townships Site B police station and officers are following several leads.
ETV management has thanked members of the SAPS for responding in a swift and professional manner to assist their team saying the journalists were also very grateful for the SAPS’s response. “We're hopeful that while the SAPS conducts its investigation into this matter, arrests will be made soon. It's concerning for us that while we're covering the local government elections and highlighting the plight of communities, our teams are vulnerable in the face of such barbaric criminality. While our team is unhurt, they're very traumatised. However, we are providing them with the necessary support,” John Bailey Managing Editor told SANEF.
The two journalists are undergoing trauma counselling.
SANEF is concerned that barely a month ago, an ENCA crew were robbed in the same township, and Newzroom Afrika crew were robbed while they were out on a story in East London. Other incidents of robbery of journalists have been reported in Cape Town and elsewhere in the country.
We note that these attacks are now becoming a norm putting the lives of journalists at risk. We call on law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute these criminals.
Such attacks place enormous physical and emotional burden on journalists who are already exposed to challenging conditions working under COVID-19 pandemic.
While SANEF is taking pro-active steps to train journalists on how to navigate these dangerous situations, we also call on all community leaders to take the issue of the safety of journalists seriously and report the criminals to local police.
Without journalists focusing on the plight of communities, such stories will go unreported.
South Africa is becoming a very dangerous place for journalists and apart from attacks on the field, journalists also face cyber-bulling and severe attacks on social media platforms.
It is ironic that in 2021 as we commemorate Black Wednesday this week, 44 years since the tragic events of 19 October 1977, when scores of journalists and black consciousness leaders were detained and banned by the apartheid regime, that journalists in our country are again under attack, this time by criminals.
Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.