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Threats against journalists in as protests erupt in South Africa

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 22 June 2016.

In response to the violent protests taking place in Pretoria, the threats that have been issued against journalists and foreign business owners, and the decision to censor reporting on the protests by the state-owned broadcaster, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Freedom House strongly condemns the violence and threats that are being carried out by the general public and select members of the South African Police Services against members of the media, and foreign nationals and their businesses,” said Lynn Fredriksson, Director for Southern Africa programs. “Additionally, the decision by the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) not to show certain aspects of the protests in their reporting is tantamount to censorship, and we encourage the leadership to reverse its directive in favor of more open, transparent and objective media reporting of events.”

Background:

Protests erupted across several communities in Pretoria following a decision by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to disregard the mayoral nominations of its local members in favor of a candidate selected by its provincial leadership. Protests have turned violent, with members of the media being threatened with violence by both the protesters and the police should they capture images of looting, and foreign nationals' businesses being targeted.

The SABC's Chief Operating Officer previously issued a policy directive outlawing the showing of violent footage during protests. This has led to widespread condemnation and challenges by the civil society community, including by Freedom House partner Media Monitoring Africa, which has filed a formal complaint of censorship by the SABC with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

South Africa is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2016, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.

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