Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sanef condemns journo's treatment

06 August 2010, 19:08
Sanef on Friday condemned the treatment allegedly meted out to Sunday Times reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika by police while in custody.

"[We are] appalled at the police's refusal at first to disclose any information about the reasons for the arrest and their subsequent contradictory statements," the SA National Editors' Forum said in a statement.

The forum was "deeply alarmed" at the initial refusal to allow Wa Afrika to contact his lawyer.

"Indeed, of deep concern is the attempts by the police to spirit Wa Afrika away so that his colleagues and the lawyer could not tracehim."

Sanef criticised the "thuggish behaviour reminiscent of the apartheid state" meted out to him, some of it likely to be unconstitutional and in breach of police regulations.

His arrest was carried out without a warrant being produced, an "uncalled for" number of policemen arrested him and they attempted to prevent photographers from taking pictures of the arrest.

Sanef condemned the Hawks for reinstating the charges against Wa Afrika, after three prosecutors dismissed them on the ground that they had no substance, and the unjustified initial refusal to grant him bail.

"The further development where an original charge of fraud and defeating the ends of justice disappeared and was replaced with charges of fraud, forgery and uttering, indicated remarkable confusion."

Wa Afrika's reported questioning by senior police officers, who should know better, at 2am the morning after his arrest was "a tactic verging on torture and reminiscent of apartheid's detention without trial".

Sanef called on the Independent Complaints Directorate to look into the police's conduct in the handling of his case.

Wa Afrika made a brief appearance in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Friday and was released on R5000 bail.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said he appeared with Mpumalanga government official Victor Mlimi. They were ordered to surrender their passports, not leave the country, not interfere with state witnesses and report to their nearest police station once a week between 8am and 8pm.

Mlimi is a deputy director for informal settlements in Mpumalanga, according to the province's housing department spokesman, Freddy Ngobe.

Wa Afrika was arrested in Rosebank, Johannesburg on Wednesday, but on Thursday the case was dropped. However, he was not released, and the case was reinstated later that day.

His lawyers successfully applied for his release in an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday night. - Sapa

Saturday Star

Comments by Sonny

This is a trying time for the ANC and Press Freedom!

Looks more like Bob Mugabe's Zimbabwe to US!

Law Society concerned about media freedom

Aug 6, 2010 4:20 PM | By Sapa
The Protection of Information Bill is "constitutionally suspect", says the Law Society of SA.

File image

Freed journo and co-accused speak out
Zubeida Jaffer: Do not compare wa Afrika arrest to Apartheid era

Wa Afrika: The truth has set me free

"The bill suffers from several defects which render it constitutionally suspect and which need further consideration," the LSSA said in a statement.

The society expressed concern over the bill and the ANC-proposed Media Appeals Tribunal, and their effects on media freedom.

"... Each has the potential seriously to erode transparency, accountability by public officials, the public's right of access to information and media freedom."

"Defects" in the bill include its "broad and vague" definition of "national interest", the threshold for classification was "unacceptably low", the bill allows for the classification of commercial information held by the state and the bill fails to provide for an "independent oversight mechanism" to review classification decisions.

"... [It] thus leaves the final decisions in this regard in the hands of state officials who may well have an interest in continuing to conceal certain information."

Accessing, disclosing and continuing to possess classified information; communicating classified information and publishing a "state security matter" were deemed criminal offences, with a penalty of between five to 25 years in jail.

"No public interest indemnity is proposed for these criminal offences.

"The result is that the offences will inevitably censor the publication of matters of public interest by the media and others," said LSSA co-chairmen Max Boqwana and Peter Horn.

"Whereas the LSSA recognises the legitimate need for every government to take steps to protect information that is crucial for national security, such legislation should be narrowly tailored and should not be drafted in a manner that fails to take into account the important role played in a democracy by the media, and indeed every citizen who seeks to expose corruption, nepotism, hypocrisy and maladministration."

The society welcomed Justice Minister Jeff Radebe's assurance that the bill would be considered in a "democratic manner".

It accepted that the media had a responsibility to report fairly but expressed concern about the "suggestion" that the media required "external regulation" as suggested by the ANC's proposed tribunal.

The ANC wants an independent statutory body accountable to Parliament to deal with complaints against newspapers, instead of solely relying on the Press Ombudsman who currently deals with complaints.

"The fact that the tribunal would be accountable to Parliament is cold comfort - ultimately what this will amount to is government oversight over the media, which cannot be countenanced in a democratic state."

The ruling party will discuss the proposal at its national general council in Durban in September.

Of further concern was the call for journalists to face jail sentences or fines for publishing inaccurate stories.

"Such a step would entirely negate the right to freedom of the media and place South Africa amongst the ranks of several autocratic states around the world where criminal sanctions are used to silence the media."

The Law Society planned to host a public discussion to debate the bill and the tribunal.

Media freedom in South Africa has recently come under the spotlight with the draft Protection of Information Bill now before Parliament, discussions on the tribunal on the horizon and with the arrest of a Sunday Times journalist this week.

Times Live

Comments by Sonny

....."Apartheid was peanuts to this Jungle Justice!!".....

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