The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has condemned the attack of two SABC journalists by a group of armed youth in Marqualand in the Free State.

The journalists, Thabo Katsanda and Thabiso Radebe, were forced to drive over a barricade of stones, rocks and burning tyres in order to get away.

Katsanda says the youth, aged between 14 and 20, surrounded the car in which they were travelling.

“At first they seemed friendly and asked for money to remove the barricade that had been resurrected. Then they turned hostile. One pulled out a knife. It seemed that they wanted to rob us of our money and cell phones and then burn the car.”

Disgruntled residents have been protesting against poor service delivery and the removal of municipal executives. Despite on-going low levels of harassment and hostility levelled against them, journalists have been covering these protests. However, this time, the journalists were forced to flee and abandon the story after things escalated.

Sanef says it is worried about the increasing attacks on journalists, particularly during service delivery protest action. “There have been a number of incidents around the country, including most recently, during the Alexandra township #shutdown protests.”

The Forum says it seems journalists are becoming soft targets for criminals.

Sanef has advised journalists to exercise more caution when covering such protests as stories cannot be abandoned if the media wants to hold government to account.

The Forum also called on media houses to protect their journalists by conducting security assessments, when necessary offering journalists hostile environment training and counselling.

Ahead of the elections, Sanef ran a series of elections workshops across the country that included safety training. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Emergencies Response Team (ERT) compiled a Safety Kit which is available on the Sanef website. The kit contains information for editors, reporters, and photojournalists on how to mitigate digital, physical and psychological risks.

“We believe a major priority project that is on-going is an education campaign that explains to the public the importance of the role of journalists in society in uncovering corruption, lack of service delivery, etc,” Sanef further explains.