The SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF) welcomes the decision by a prosecutor to decline to prosecute charges against Sowetan journalist
Mhlaba Memela who was arrested and detained by eThekwini's Metro police
on the night of February 13 allegedly for interfering with the police
in their duties, according to a media release.
Memela called the police to an accident in the Durban central business district where two vehicles had collided and one, a minibus taxi, had crashed into a furniture store. Passers-by were looting the shop. He took pictures but when the police arrived, they told him he had no right to take pictures and accused him of obstructing the course of justice, failing to comply with police instructions, inciting a crowd and resisting arrest.
Fellow journalists saw him bundled into a police van and taken to the police cells, where he spent several hours before being released.
On February 14, Memela's lawyer Zane Haneef said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe state prosecutor said the State would not be able to prove its case against the accused and he does not believe there's any merit (in the case). He (the control prosecutor) believes it's a minor matter… very trivial.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Sanef condemns the action of the police in arresting a journalist while carrying out his duties and supports the Sowetan in its calls for disciplinary action to be taken against the police officer for unwarranted interference with the journalist.
Sanef also supports the Sowetan in pursuing a claim for damages against the eThekwini Municipality for the unlawful arrest and jailing of Memela.
Sanef is deeply concerned at the increase in cases of the police preventing journalists from carrying out their duties of informing the public by taking possession of their cameras, on occasion attempting to take their notebooks, arresting and detaining them at crime scenes and actually evicting them from public courts.
This is the latest case where the prosecutors have thrown out the cases before the arrested journalists appeared before court, an indication of the illegality of the police conduct.
The police behaviour is totally unacceptable as it appears to be an attempt to censor the media in carrying out its constitutional role of informing the public.
Issued by: SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF)
For more comment please contact:
Jovial Rantao ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ SANEF Chairperson: 082 446 6008
Raymond Louw ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Chair of SANEF Media Freedom Subcom: 011 646 8790 / 082 446 5155