The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has condemned the assault of journalists at the Durban City Hall on Tuesday allegedly on instruction of Durban Mayor, Zandile Gumede’s office.

The journalists were invited to a Democratic Alliance media briefing on alleged fraud and corruption by city officials.

It is alleged that the journalists were seated in the DA caucus room when they were approached by eight armed Metro Police officers who asked them to vacate the premises as per instruction of the Mayor’s office.

Journalists outside the gate were prevented from gaining entry into the building.

Tensions ran high when the journalists questions why they were being evicted. They were then manhandled, an incident that has left the journalists shaken.

“We were told by Metro Police that the Mayor had instructed them to remove journalists from the caucus room as we had no permission to be there.  There were eight armed officers waiting outside the caucus room to escort us out. We were afraid. As we were packing up our gear, we heard a loud commotion outside and found our colleagues being manhandled by officers,” said one journalist.

The organizers eventually held the press briefing on the steps of City Hall surrounded by armed Metro Police officers.

Sanef says that it finds this incident very disturbing and has called for the City of Durban to investigate the matter to prevent future occurrences.

“Denying journalists’ entry into a press briefing is unconstitutional and denies the public the right to information,” the forum said in a statement.

Sanef has also labeled police monitoring a press briefing as “an intimidatory tactic” that is undemocratic and a reminder of the terror leveled against journalists by the apartheid police.

Sanef also expressed concern on the escalation of the attack on journalists in the City.

“Sanef is concerned that the attacks against journalists in the region are escalating and calls on political parties and those elected to lead not to use journalists as pawns in their political infighting and/or to cover up corruption. In the run up to the elections, the KZN region is always a hot spot that targets journalists.”

The forum has urged any person or organization that feels aggravated by the media, to follow the right channels in addressing their grievances.