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Blue-light boys bully journalist

The VIP Protection Unit has again threatened a journalist with arrest for refusing to give up...

Taking this picture led to VIP Protection Unit officers threatening an EWN journalist. Picture: Stephen Grootes/Eyewitness News

The VIP Protection Unit has again threatened a journalist with arrest for refusing to give up photographs.

Eyewitness News reporter Stephen Grootes was told that he could be arrested after taking pictures of a car belonging to the unit.

The drama happened at the African National Congress’s List Conference in <?xml:namespace prefix="st1" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags"?><place w:st="on"><placename w:st="on">Esselen<placetype w:st="on">Park in Kempton Park.

Eyewitness News spotted a car used by the VIP Protect Unit on Saturday which did not have number plates.

After taking pictures of the vehicle, two VIP guards approached Grootes claiming that Eyewitness News had no right to take the pictures.

While restraining Eyewitness News who refused to give up the pictures, they launched verbal attacks.

“You have to get permission,” they said.

“You have no right to do that, why do you provoke us? We can arrest you,” said the VIP guards.

Other journalists got involved before the ANC’S Carl Niehaus intervened.

He spoke to the guards who then walked away.

Niehaus immediately apologised for the entire incident.

Police have defended their VIP officers saying that one of the unit’s vehicles broke down on the day and that they were forced to use an unregistered car.

They also said that the BMW would only have travelled as part of a convoy and therefore could have been identified without plates.

The police’s Vish Naidoo said that the unit’s members did not want their pictures to be taken.

“As long as there is no law doubling that, they should respect the fact that members don’t want their photographs taken. If their photographs are taken, members do not have a right also to say to the media ’Listen, you must hand over those photographs’ or threaten with arrest or things like that. That is unacceptable,” said Naidoo.