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Photographer harassed, his camera seized; another briefly detained for covering police dispute

(MISA/IFEX) - On 16 October 2007, a police officer manhandled "The Star" photographer Matthews Baloyi and confiscated equipment belonging to him, while chief photographer Chris Collingridge was arrested for taking down the registration number of a private car used by a police officer. Collingridge was later released.

The incident took place following heated scenes between the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metro police. According to newspaper reports, the metro police arrived in six cars and a flatbed truck to tow away illegally parked vehicles. After they started ticketing the vehicles, which belonged to the SAPS's Crime Intelligence Unit, an argument broke out between the two parties.

Baloyi said he was insulted by a police officer for taking pictures of the scene, and then was grabbed by the neck and pulled across the road, "The Star" reports.

The police officer seized his camera and dropped it on the pavement before putting it into the trunk of one of the police cars at the scene.

This is the second time within a month that police officers obstructed photographers in the line of duty. Recently, photographers from the "Mail and Guardian" and "Die Burger" were manhandled in an attempt to prevent them from taking pictures at the demonstrations of residents of the informal "Joe Slovo" settlement on the N2 highway, outside Cape Town.

This behavior by police officers is not only unacceptable but a clear abuse of authority, amounting to the harassment of photographers. MISA-South Africa is of the view that the conduct of these police officers constitutes improper, if not illegal, attempts to censor the media.

"We urge the South African police service to allow the proper functioning of free press. There can be no excuse for any attempt to limit this freedom", MISA-SA said in a public statement.

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