Media freedom not absolute - Mthethwa

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pretoria - The Police Ministry says it has no intension of interfering with the country's media freedom, however it will not allow the safety of society to be compromised.

"We respect the country's media freedom... independence of each media house and have no intention of interfering.

"However, in instances where we believe this freedom has been abused, we have within the Constitutional framework, the legality to challenge such decision, more especially if they concern the safety of the society," said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

This follows subpoenas served on two reporters in connection with a story the station broadcasted featuring two self-confessed criminals threatening to commit violent crimes against foreigners during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has accused the police and prosecuting authorities of reneging on a deal to protect media freedom by issuing the subpoenas.

Mthethwa said the police had not withdrawn the subpoenas, as they were still investigating the matter. The minister accused the station of "reckless harbouring of criminals".

"To us as the police leadership, this issue was not even about the headlines, rather about police fulfilling their mandates of keeping all citizens and visitors safe."