e.tv to meet NPA head over subpoenas

e.tv has until Thursday to make representations to the national director of public prosecutions regarding subpoenas issued against two of its journalists, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Monday.

“They have to consult the national director to raise their concerns regarding the subpoenas … so the case has been put on hold until the director addresses their concerns. We’ll allow that process to unfold and take it from there,” said NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga.

He was addressing journalists outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court shortly after it was announced that the e.tv journalists would not appear in court as their case had been postponed indefinitely.

The case was postponed to allow for mediation between e.tv lawyers, the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), the state and the South African Police Service.

Mediation would involve a memorandum of understanding signed between Sanef and the then ministry of justice and law and order in 1999 where it was agreed news editors should be consulted before journalists are subpoenaed.

Mhaga would not elaborate on why the police had ignored the memorandum of understanding.

News editor Ben Said and reporter Mpho Lakaje were issued with subpoenas after they refused to reveal the identity, addresses and contact details of two alleged criminals they interviewed. The men threatened to rob and kill Soccer World Cup tourists on e.tv on January 16.

The reporters also said they would not hand over unedited footage of the interview to prosecutors.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said last week that “a friend of a criminal is a criminal,” after the ministry announced that the police had arrested one of the suspects.

The suspect was arrested in the early hours of Thursday in the RDP [Reconstruction and Development Programme] settlement of Tshepisong near Kagiso on the West Rand.

Also present at the National Press Club’s media briefing was police National Commissioner Bheki Cele, deputy police minister Fikile Mbalula and the Hawks’ Anwa Dramat.

Cele lashed out at e.tv for airing the footage and for protecting the identities of the ‘criminals”.

‘e.tv is a crime kisser and have expressed themselves as such. My question to them is that would they have protected their sources if they threatened to kill, rob and rape their mothers?” said Cele.

‘If these are the types of people that e.tv is fraternising with, then e.tv has sold out … they have sold the South African society to criminals,” he added.

Earlier in the week, Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi told the Mail & Guardian that there was a slight suspicion that Lucky Phungula, the e.tv source who earlier this week committed suicide, took part in the video footage. – Sapa

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