NPC calls for withdrawal of subpoenas

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pretoria - The National Press Club has called on authorities to immediately withdraw the subpoenas against two journalists who are expected to appear in court today.

News editor Ben Said and reporter Mpho Lakaje are due to appear in court on Monday following the screening of interviews with two self-confessed criminals.

In the broadcast, the men allegedly threatened to murder and rob foreigners during June's FIFA World Cup. The broadcast led to the issuance of the subpoenas.

Chairperson of the club Yusuf Abramjee explained that the intention with the subpoenas was to force the journalists to reveal the identities of the men who threatened to rob tourists during the World Cup.

"The alleged middle-man apparently took his own life and one of the two men featured on was arrested on Thursday. The Hawks publicly confirmed that they know who the second person is.

"In view of these developments, there is absolutely no reason why Said and Lakaje should be hauled before a court. What information do the police need? The cops have it," said Abramjee.

The National Press Club called on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and National Police Commissioner, Bheki Cele, to withdraw the subpoenas.

He said there was still an on-going debate as to whether should have screened the interviews with the two criminals who clearly taunted police and threatened violence.

The chairperson said that it is "vital" for the police leadership to engage the South African National Editors' Form (SANEF) and other media groups to discuss Section 205 in view of a long-standing agreement between SANEF and government on the use of this law against reporters.

Last week, Mthethwa said his ministry had no intension of interfering with the country's media freedom but that government would not allow the safety of society to be compromised.