SANEF concerned about journalists being denied access to courts

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National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) says it will write to Acting Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, on the issue of journalists being denied access to courts. The forum says it’s concerned about the deteriorating access for journalists to Magistrates and High Courts.

SANEF held if first council meeting for the year in Cape Town on Saturday where it discussed various issues affecting the media industry and the country.

SANEF says it is aggrieved by the lack of access to courts by journalists in recent years. In 2020, the Magistrates’ Commission finally set national guidelines regarding media access to court proceedings after months of engagements with SANEF.

Despite this, the forum says magistrates across the country continue to ignore their guidelines. After futile attempts to engage the commission, the forum now wants Acting Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo to intervene in what it describes as a clear violation of the constitution.

SANEF acting Secretary-General, Monica Laganparsad says it’s deeply concerning.

“The council has now resolved to write to the acting Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, to ask him to please intervene in what has been a clear violation of the constitution. In the latest, there has been a ruling by the Western Cape Judge President, Judge John Hlophe who imposed an application process to journalists in the review application of the man accused of burning parliament, Zandile Mafe. We’re gonna have to keep an eye and see how that process goes but it’s becoming incredibly difficult for reporters to have access to these things, it’s deeply concerning.”

The issue of the safety of journalists is another area of concern SANEF continues to raise. Laganparsad says law enforcement agencies must bring to book those who threatened Lesedi FM journalists and left threatening graffiti on the walls of the public broadcaster’s offices in Bloemfontein, in the Free State.

“We take those threatening seriously, often threatened things like rape, assault, and death. There has been no clear indication from authorities to take those things seriously. Often these journalists especially one’s on the ground are putting themselves at risk and were worried this will escalate as we move closer to the elections next year.”

Transparency at the SABC

SANEF has also called for transparency at the  South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as it continues to push for the hearing into former News Editor-in-Chief Phathiswa Magopeni’s grievance against SABC Chair, Bongumusa Makhathini and Group CEO Madoda Mxakwe to be open to the public. Magopeni accused them of editorial interference. She was fired earlier, after an interdicted episode of Special Assignment was aired.

“It’s a very important space that needs to be protected. This is one of the things they need to be open about. There’s much of he said, she said and back and forth. So, it would be a clear indication that there have been so many issues over the last decade and this is something that we urge them about, to open their doors and open to the public about.”

SANEF has reiterated its disappointment at the eThekwini municipality for failing to fulfill its promise to restore the tombstone of journalist and anti-apartheid icon, Nat Nakasa at the Heroes Acre in Chesterville, Durban.