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South Africa: Two journalists mistreated during riots in Soweto

In this photo taken on 22 January 2015, police arrest a man suspected of looting a store in Soweto, South Africa.
In this photo taken on 22 January 2015, police arrest a man suspected of looting a store in Soweto, South Africa.

AP Photo

This statement was originally published on misa.org on 26 January 2015.

Two journalists were mistreated in separate incidents during the Soweto uprising last week. Three people have been killed since the violent unrest began last week in Soweto after a foreign business owner shot a 14-year-old boy accused of trying to rob a shop, Eyewitness News reported.

SAPA journalist Mpho Raborife was forced to remove pictures taken with her cellphone on Thursday 22 January 2014.

After noticing three police vehicles outside Somali-owned shops on her way to work, Raborife stopped to investigate and took photos of two men loading groceries onto a white van, then left the scene.

Police pulled her vehicle over and told her she is not allowed to take photos without their permission and “leak them to media”. Regardless of her showing them her press card, they threatened to take Raborife to their commander and watched her as she deleted the photos.

The police let her go after they took down her details and took a photo of her vehicle.

In the second incident, Eyewitness News reporter Leeto Khoza was attacked with a rock by angry protestors later on that Thursday afternoon.

While covering the unrest in Meadowlands Zone 5, Soweto protestors decided to turn their attention away from the police and shop owners and instead attack journalists for fear of their identities being revealed. Khoza was hit on the head with a rock and lost consciousness for some time.

Khoza was said to be receiving intensive care on Friday 23 January 2015.

The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) condemned the actions of the police, stating that such actions are in contravention of police standing orders, which prohibit police officers from deleting journalists' pictures at crime scenes. SANEF also calls on the public to “respect the right of journalists to do their work and to actually protect them against those who may not wish for the truth to be known”.

SANEF added that community leaders are responsible for instilling the understanding of the role of journalists in the media to their communities.

The safety of journalists is one of MISA's priorities, and is pivotal to journalists being able to exercise their right to freedom of expression. Journalists should be free to do their job without facing physical attacks or undue interference with their work.

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