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Sanef slams treatment of reporters in Soweto unrest

A Sapa journalist was forced to delete images while an EWN reporter was hit on the head with a rock.

FILE: A ransacked foreign-owned shop in Soweto. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has released a statement denouncing the actions of police and some of the community members involved in the recent Soweto unrest.

Three people have been killed in the violent unrest this week that initially started in Soweto but then fanned out to other areas in Gauteng.

The unrest began on Monday night after a 14-year-old boy accused of trying to rob a shop in Doornkop was shot, allegedly by a foreign business owner.

Sanef says it is particularly perturbed by two incidents.

In the first, police allegedly forced Sapa journalist Mpho Raborife to delete images that she had taken from her cellphone on Thursday.

The second incident involved Eyewitness News reporter Leeto Khoza being struck on the head by a rock.

Raborife says that she had driven past three Somali-owned shops in Dobsonville on her way to work when she noticed three police vehicles outside the shops.

She said she had decided to stop to investigate as she was aware of the unrest in the township.

Roborife says she saw two men loading groceries into a van and took pictures with her cellphone and left.

According to Sanef, police followed Raborife and pulled her over.

One of the police officers told Roborife that she wasn't allowed to take pictures and "leak them to the media".

Police threatened to take her to the police station commander and watched her delete the pictures from her cellphone.

The officers took down her details and a photo of her vehicle before letting her go.

The organisation says this is in contravention of police standing orders which prohibit police officers from deleting journalists' pictures at crime scenes.

In Khoza's case he was covering the unrest in Meadowlands Zone 5, Soweto when he was attacked by an angry crowd late Thursday afternoon.

Protesters threw rocks at police and shop owners, then turned their attention on journalists, fearing the exposure of their identities through the media.

He was hit on the head with a rock and lost consciousness for some time. He is still in hospital receiving intensive care.

The forum has called on the public to respect the right of journalists to do their work and protect them from those who may not wish for the truth to be known.

Sanef also called on community leaders to facilitate a better understanding of the role of the media within their communities.

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