The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has welcomed the arrest of suspects following the attack on two journalists at Fish Hoek beach over the weekend.
On Saturday, eNCA journalist Monique Mortlock was assaulted while attempting to interview an anti-mask protest organiser at Fish Hoek beach.
The man refused to speak to her and ripped her mask off, while another journalist, Athi Mtongana from Newzroom Afrika, was also attacked.
Mortlock tweeted: “We are at Fish Hoek beach to cover the #WeAreMore protest against the lockdown. But one of the organisers just assaulted me, even with officers around us. He refused to speak to me because I’m wearing a mask.”
A demonstrator then threw her phone onto the ground when she attempted to conduct an interview.
Mtongana tweeted: “Protesters at Fish Hoek beach approached us and asked if we’re media. Told us that anyone wearing a mask supports paedophiles.”
An elderly lady then proceeded to slap Mtongana’s phone out of her hand.
“SANEF is encouraged to hear about the swift interventions of law enforcement agencies, who reacted to the shocking attack on the two women journalists at the weekend and arrested some of the demonstrators concerned.
“They will face charges relating to assault and crimen injuria. SANEF wishes to thank the SAPS for its prompt response,” SANEF said in a statement.
SANEF noted that protesters took to the beach to call for an end to lockdown restrictions when the assault happened.
However, some broke the law and endangered the lives of the journalists on the scene by forcing them to take off their masks.
“SANEF wishes to remind communities that forcefully removing someone’s mask is an infringement of their rights to safety by the same people who want their stories told.
“SANEF is concerned that news reporters are being attacked by the same individuals who want their stories told and yet have no respect for media freedom and the rights of journalists to work without fear of intimidation and harassment.
“The attack on journalists by members of the public is becoming a worrying trend,” SANEF said.
SANEF called on media houses to provide counselling and mental health care support to all journalists, particularly during the COVID Crisis.
“We once again thank the SAPS for stepping in and arresting those who broke the law and intimidated journalists,” SANEF said.