President Cyril Ramaphosa has again thanked the news media for the critical role they play during the coronavirus pandemic. The President is holding a video conference with journalists and members of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef).

The meeting with Sanef afforded the President an opportunity to engage editors on the country’s ongoing measures to manage the spread of COVID-19 through its risk-adjusted strategy.

“And I must say that right at the beginning when we made the lockdown provisions announcement, the media, for a while, had not been identified as essential and you immediately raised the issue and it was an oversight on our part, which was quickly corrected because of your own interventions. Which we thank you for, because the continued interventions between the media and government are quite helpful.”

President Ramaphosa convenes a virtual engagement with members of the South African National Editors’ Forum:

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa has demanded safe passage for a South African journalist forced into exile during the coronavirus lockdown. Sanef has long called for police intervention in the matter.

Journalist, Paul Nthoba, has been forced to flee the country and seek refuge in Lesotho. This, after he was assaulted by police while profiling police visibility in compliance with lockdown regulations.

“But I’m also quite unhappy to hear that there is another journalist who has had to flee the country and go into Lesotho for fear of either being arrested or fear of being dealt with. Now, I’m going to direct the minister of police to make sure that he has safe passage back into South Africa and he should not be molested in any way.”

The former SABC journalist went into hiding after police allegedly assaulted him in Ficksburg, in the Free State.

Nthoba, who owns a community newspaper, said he was working on a story about police visibility in the area and took a photo of police patrolling the area. He said when police officers saw him taking pictures, they allegedly started to insult and beat him.

Nthoba could be heard in a cellphone recording screaming and asking police officers why they are beating him. He said he felt disgruntled and nowhere to run for help.

“I was on an assignment covering police visibility and took a picture of policeman and they started insulting me and accosted me, beat me up and I went. And I went to the police station to open a case. When I arrived there I was beaten up in front of senior police officers. And currently, I’m hiding because I don’t feel safe with people with guns and badges are after me. So, they have the whole state machinery. And I’m just alone somewhere there in the rural areas. Who is there to protect me?” explains Nthoba.

Nthoba went to open a case of assault at the police station and alleged that a police officer hesitated to open a case. He alleged that while he was at the station the same police officers followed him and allegedly beat him up again.

Nthoba said he did not feel safe anymore.

In the video below, Paul Nthabo says he is in hiding fearing the police: