Photographer to lay charge after 'scuffle' at Unisa

The alleged assault of Beeld newspaper photographer Craig Nieuwenhuizen by security guards at Unisa in Pretoria was under investigation, the university said on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Doreen Gough said the university would issue a statement on Wednesday.

“The University of South Africa has noted that a scuffle occurred between a media team from Beeld and Unisa security personnel on its Sunnyside campus on Tuesday.

News24 reported that Nieuwenhuizen and reporter Alet Rademeyer were investigating complaints about a stench at the Es’kia Mphahlele building.

A security guard reportedly refused them entry.

They followed the guard to the main building when a second guard approached them, shouting that they should return to the gate. He allegedly shoved Nieuwenhuizen. An argument ensued, after which Nieuwenhuizen and Rademeyer walked back to the gate. At the gate the guard allegedly grabbed Nieuwenhuizen by the throat.

Two or three more guards allegedly started to hit the photographer.

Beeld editor Peet Kruger said: “Thuggery of this sort is unacceptable and flies in the face of democracy. The journalists were at a building at a public institution.

“The role of journalists is to tell the story of all South Africans, so that ordinary people can be heard and problems can be highlighted in the hope that people with the proper authority can fix them.

“In this case the story was about the unpleasant working conditions of Unisa staff after the Department of Labour had ordered the air conditioning to be shut off.

“Assault and violence is not the way to handle investigations and debate,” he said.

Nieuwenhuizen told the South African Press Association that he had received five stitches and was wearing a patch over his eye. He said he intended an opening a case with the police.

The Cape Town Press Club issued a statement condemning the alleged attack.

“We trust that Unisa will immediately investigate the full facts of this incident, and take the necessary action against any offending personnel. Unisa must send the message that they respect the right of the media to carry out their duties, and that they will not tolerate any infringement of this right.”

The SA National Editors’ Forum condemned the attack and supported the paper’s complaint to Unisa vice chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya.

“In view of the increasing hostility shown to, and attacks on, journalists by the authorities which appear to be aimed at preventing news of unpleasant or embarrassing events being published, Sanef urges that criminal charges be laid with the police,” the forum said in a statement. - Sapa

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