e.tv reporters hauled into court

The two e.tv journalists subpoenaed by police will appear in court on Monday morning, a spokesperson said.

“Nothing has changed,” e.tv spokesperson Vasili Vass said on Sunday.

News editor Ben Said and reporter Mpho Lakaje would not reveal the identity, addresses and contact details of the self-confessed criminals they interviewed. They would also not give prosecutors the unedited footage of the interview.

“They will appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court at 8.30am,” Vass said.

Police Ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said: “The subpoena is still standing unless we receive the information as required.”

“We believe the action we took is in accordance with the Constitution. We are not chasing after [news] sources, we’re chasing after criminals.”

The pair of self-confessed criminals said they planned to target tourists during the Soccer World Cup. Said and Lakaje were subsequently served subpoenas under Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act in a bid to force them to reveal their sources.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) on Sunday condemned the use of the law as “ill-advised” and “unjustified”.

“Sanef reiterates its strong opposition to the use of this legislation in the same way in which it was abused in the apartheid era when it was employed to force journalists into revealing their confidential sources,” it said in a statement.

The body previously entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with authorities. It set out a process which police or prosecuting authorities would follow when seeking confidential information from journalists.

“In this instance, the authorities bluntly ignored and continues to ignore the MOU. This is very disturbing,” Sanef said.

The National Press Club (NPC) on Sunday also demanded authorities to “withdraw the Section 205 subpoenas against e.tv immediately”.

The middleman between the reporter and the criminals, Lucky Phungula, committed suicide in Soweto last week. Police arrested one of the two men last week, and say they will apprehend the other man soon.

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

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in Pretoria last week “It’s not like we jumped into the subpoena. We were shown one of the fingers, [by e.tv] basically”.

“A friend of a criminal is a criminal, e.tv clearly is a crime kisser. They’ve exposed themselves as such,” said police National Commissioner Bheki Cele at the same press conference. - Sapa

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