The SA National Editors' Forum condemns the conduct of a Germiston
Magistrate's Court official who barred journalists from taking notes at
the start of the trial of four policemen and two police reservists on
charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances on Monday, January
29, according to a release.

The official, Inspector Tshika, snatched the notebook from the hands of a SABC reporter and confiscated it. Notebooks of other reporters were also confiscated. Later as the reporters left the court relatives and friends of the accused policemen surrounded the journalists, threatening them and saying they had no right to report the proceedings.

Court officials and the police took no action to protect the journalists from the crowd. Sanef regards the attempts to prevent the reporters from covering the case as outrageous. It was interference bordering on the unlawful in the work of journalists carrying out their legitimate duties covering the proceedings at an open court hearing.

Sanef complained to the National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi on a previous occasion when police evicted journalists from a court hearing when former deputy president Jacob Zuma was the accused. Sanef received assurances from Commissioner Selebi that the police upheld media freedom and respected the role of journalists in carrying out their duties.

Yet, a few months later a police officer with the senior rank of inspector has tried to censor the media by preventing journalists from reporting on court proceedings clearly with the intent of protecting fellow policemen. 

Sanef calls on Commissioner Selebi to take stern action against the officer and to inform members of the police service that their role in upholding media freedom is to protect journalists and facilitate the carrying out of their duties.Sanef is also disturbed that when the journalists complained to the prosecutor in the case he apparently failed to inform the magistrate of the manner in which the proceedings of an open court hearing were being improperly interfered with.


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