STATEMENTS

18 November 2016

SACOMM STATEMENT: The ongoing harassment of journalists at the University of Johannesburg

As the collective of academics who are responsible for the training, mentoring and education of many of our country’s journalists, communications practitioners and media workers, we are deeply concerned about the ongoing intimidation, harassment and abuse of both professional and student journalists. 

Most recently, University of Johannesburg (UJ) student journalist, Magnificent Ndebele (20) was visited by two SAPS officers in the early hours of Thursday (10 Nov) morning.  According to Ndebele, the officers confiscated his equipment, including his cellular phone and laptop, without providing a warrant. Ndebele was on the scene earlier this month when fellow student, Kelvin Baloyi, was shot at point-blank range by private security officials. Baloyi died on the scene. Ndebele recorded images during this incident.

Disturbingly, this is not the first time that Ndebele has been subject to police intimidation. During his reporting on the student protests at UJ in recent months, he has been threatened with violence and with his life, from both private security officials as well as SAPS officers on various occasions.

Ndebele is not alone. Journalists have frequently reported being barred from UJ campuses by private security officials or ‘bouncers’. This also follows a deplorable incident in September, when UJ private security guards attacked a group of journalists who had identified themselves as media workers, beating them with batons and pepper-spraying them, while the journalists sat on the ground. Video footage reveals how UJ private security guards violently assaulted filmmaker Sipho Singiswa without provocation.

After the September attack on journalists at UJ’s Doornkloof and Kingsway campuses, we wrote to Professor Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Johannesburg, endorsing Sanef’s statement on the incident.

At this time, and as per the collective SACOMM position on the crisis in higher education, we are deeply concerned about this ongoing infringement on freedom of expression, and media freedom rights. This is unacceptable in a democracy, and is a violation of Section 16 of the Constitution.

We also remind SAPS that your own rules prohibit you from treating the media with disrespect or with violence. SAPS Standing Order 156 instructs you to treat all media representatives with respect, courtesy and dignity even when provoked. You may not delete a journalist’s photographs or footage, and you may not confiscate equipment without a warrant – this is against the law. Anyone, in any open public space, is allowed to photograph you or any incident which may be occurring on the scene, and you may not stop them.

As journalism and media educators, we deplore the actions of SAPS in their unlawful confiscation of a student journalist’s equipment and what is clearly targeted harassment of the student journalist after he captured scenes of a crime. This is a blatant infringement of the student’s personal rights, and media freedom rights in general.

It is crucial to our country that the media sector is allowed to do its work and perform its duties without fear or intimidation.

For further comment contact:

Dr Julie Reid: 082 885 8969

Prof Pier Paolo Frassinelli: 072 338 0406

11 October 2016

SACOMM STATEMENT: The crisis in higher education, student protests and related freedom of expression rights

In light of the current crisis and as communication scholars, we call for universities to embrace a flexible, pragmatic, humane and dialogical approach, and make our skills in communication and conflict resolution available to our academic communities to help resolve the current impasse.

We note with concern, the following:

The chronic underfunding of tertiary education by government has in large part contributed to the current crisis. Government must address this problem immediately.

The number of students at universities has increased exponentially since the end of apartheid. This is an important development, itis key to decreasing the wide scale inequality in our country and it is good for our democracy.

However, our government has not adequately funded this increase in student numbers. The amount of government funding per student has decreased every year, forcing universities to recover costs by raising student fees. As a result, tuition fees at higher education institutions are beyond the reach of too many students and their families, while at the same time, universities are facing a funding crisis of sustainability.

Basic, secondary and tertiary education is a public good that deserves better investment. It must become one of our government’s priorities. We do not need to redirect funding from other social services for the poor in order to fund education properly. Government must urgently explore and institute alternative funding sources for education, such as curbing military spending (we are not a country at war), recouping misspent funds, preventing state corruption and maladministration of funds, reducing spending on non-essential projects and luxuries (such as nuclear power) and stopping the flight of money which routinely leaves the country illegally.

The involvement and presence of the South African Police Services (SAPS), Public Order Policing Units (POPU) and private security guards on our campuses often makes the situation worse. This is putting our students and our colleagues at risk.

During the #FeesMustFall movement, in both 2015 and 2016, we have seen that when university management brings SAPS, public order policing units or private security guards onto our campuses, the conflict and violence only get worse. Many of the acts of violence by students have happened as a direct response to police and private security brutality. We also note with concern the many instances in which academics and other university staff have been subject to private security or police brutality, harassment, intimidation and physical harm.

The increasing presence of these security forces on our campuses around the country is extremely dangerous, and unnecessarily exacerbates the situation causing an increase in the conflict. We know that most of these security services do not have the necessary training in how to manage public protests in a reasonable and responsible way, or how to diffuse a situation peacefully without causing tensions to escalate into violence. These security services are trained to use force, and it is therefore inappropriate to engage their services on our campuses.

Freedom of expression, for the students, for academics, and for staff/workers

Nationwide, our students, academics and other university workers have legitimate concerns over the rising cost of tuition fees, which serve as a mechanism for economic exclusion from higher education. The students and others, when protesting peacefully in solidarity, are within their constitutionally protected rights to express these concerns through protest action, assembly, organising and mobilising, and via media communications channels such as the social media.

  • We call on all university managers to show respect for our students and their freedom of expression rights. We ask that you remind yourselves that the students are entitled, by law, to utilise all modes of communications, including the social media, or physical assembly, to organise, debate, connect, and disseminate their messages.
  • We call on all university managers to show respect to academics and all university workers who show solidarity to the student movement, and who may therefore openly criticize university managements’ actions or decisions. We expect you to respect their academic freedom and freedom of expression rights, as defined by Section 16 of the Constitution.
  • We condemn all criminal and violent acts, whether they are committed by students and protestors, members of private security, or other stakeholders, and call on all members of our academic communities to help fostering open channels for constructive engagement.
  • We call on the South African Police Service and all campus security workers to practice restraint and ensure the safety of our young people, while allowing them to practice their right to have their voices heard through the actions of protest and assembly. 

Media and press freedom

The student movement is a matter of national importance and the dissemination of reliable information about it is in the public interest. It is crucial to our country that the media sector is allowed to do its work and perform its duties in this regard without fear or intimidation.

As the educators of future journalists and communications practitioners, we are horrified at the reports that journalists have been barred from campuses,pepper-sprayed, beaten with batons, man-handled, intimidated, and had their footage forcibly deleted by police or private security guards on various campuses. This is unacceptable in a democracy, and is a violation of Section 16 of the Constitution.

We also remind SAPS that your own rules prohibit you from treating the media in this way. SAPS Standing Order 156 instructs you to treat all media representatives with respect, courtesy and dignity even when provoked. You may not delete a journalist’s photographs or footage – this is against the law. Anyone, in any open public space, is allowed to photograph you and you may not stop them.

We are also concerned at reports that some protestors have tried to dictate terms of coverage to journalists. The media must be allowed to perform its work free from all forms of interference.

We offer solidarity to our academic colleagues at various campuses around the country, who have shown support to the students, and attempted to act as mediators between security workers and police in order to ensure the safety of the student protestors.

SACOMM stands in support of the struggle of students to make quality higher education a more accessible reality for all scholars willing to learn. We call on the government and our academic communities to commit seriously to negotiation and action around the call for free, decolonized education in South Africa.

No one should be made poor from attending a university.

22 July 2016

STATEMENT BY MEDIA EDUCATORS ON SABC CRISIS

The following statement has been issued by educators in journalism and media studies

We, the undersigned educators in journalism, media studies and related subjects, condemn in the strongest terms the arbitrary suspension and firing of some of the leading journalists at the SABC.

The journalists were suspended after making legitimate editorial inquiries about edicts from management that proposed censoring visuals of particular protests.
Any editorial conference or discussion should be a forum where journalists can make their views known and ask questions. In this case the question went to the heart of the mandate of the public broadcaster which is created by, and subject to, statute. One of the objects of the Broadcasting Act, which is among the laws governing the SABC, is to: “ensure plurality of news, views and information and provide a wide range of entertainment and education programmes.” Section 9 (d) of the Act calls on the broadcaster to “ provide significant news and public affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, as well as fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality, balance and independence from government, commercial and other interests”.
The SABC is a public broadcaster belonging to the country. It is the primary source of news for millions of people. It is a place where many of our young graduates should be able to practise their profession and adhere to the highest ethical standards possible.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case at the broadcaster. The SABC has turned into a place where those who try to maintain a sense of ethics and professionalism are harassed, suspended and dismissed. It has turned into a place where the very basics of the law – complying with the regulatory authority, ICASA – are flouted.
As educators that strive towards instilling values of democratic debate, independent thinking, ethics and accountability in our students, we are shocked by the disregard shown to the independent regulator in an attempt to silence critical questions.
The SABC is a national resource. It does not belong to one person or even a small group of people. This was evident as far back as 1993 when the ANC and civil society groups, which opposed censorship, insisted at the constitutional negotiations in Kempton Park that the legislation governing the broadcaster be the first to change so that a free and fair election in 1994 could be guaranteed.
The SABC is not only flouting the law, but has violated the entire vision of democracy and constitutionalism that brought it into being. This is not the media environment that we want to see our graduates working in.
We call on the SABC to reinstate the fired journalists with immediate effect, and for the Portfolio committee on communications to urgently convene a public hearing into the matter. The SABC is a public resource and must operate in a lawful manner, consistent with the Broadcasting Act and the Constitution. The very principles of democratic debate, public participation and rule of law are at stake.
Signed:
  1. Herman Wasserman, Professor and Director, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  2. Martha Evans, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  3. Pippa Green, Media manager, Research Project on Employment, Income Distribution and Inclusive Growth, UCT (former head Journalism Programme, University of Pretoria)
  4. Alexia Smit, Lecturer in Television Studies, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  5. Litheko Modisane, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of cape Town
  6. Martin Botha, Associate Professor, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  7. Tanja Bosch, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  8. Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  9. Musawenkosi Ndlovu, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  10. Wallace Chuma, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  11. Lesley Marx, Associate Professor, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  12. Ron Irwin, Lecturer, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  13. Marion Walton, Associate Professor, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  14. Ian Glenn, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  15. Adam Haupt, Associate Professor, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
  16. Philippe-Joseph Salazar, Distinguished Professor of​ ​Rhetoric, Centre for Rhetoric Studies, University of Cape Town
  17. Larry Strelitz, Professor and Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
  18. Anthea Garman, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
  19. Peter du Toit, Research Associate, Project for Conflict Sensitive Reporting, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
  20. Jeanne du Toit, Senior Lecturer – Radio. School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
  21. Alette Schoon, Lecturer, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
  22. Rod Amner, Lecturer, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University
  23. Simon Pamphilon, Lecturer, School of Journalism & Media Studies, Rhodes University
  24. Jenny Gordon, Lecturer, School of Journalism & Media Studies, Rhodes University
  25. Gillian Rennie, Lecturer, School of Journalism & Media Studies, Rhodes University
  26. Glenda Daniels, Senior Lecturer, Department of Media Studies, Wits University
  27. Mehita Iqani, Associate Professor, Media Studies, Wits University
  28. Nicky Falkof, Senior Lecturer, Media Studies, Wits University
  29. Cobus van Staden, Lecturer, Media Studies, Wits University
  30. Iginio Gagliardone, Lecturer, Media Studies, Wits University
  31. Lesley Cowling, Associate Professor, Department of Journalism, Wits University
  32. Elna Schütz, radio producer, Department of Journalism, Wits University
  33. Kenneth Kaplan, Lecturer, Film & TV Division, Wits University
  34. Julie Reid, Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  35. Danie du Plessis, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  36. Elirea Bornman, Research Professor, Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  37. Gysbert M. Kirsten, Lecturer: Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  38. Christo P Cilliers, Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  39. viola milton, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  40. Babalwa Sibango, Junior Lecturer, Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  41. Marie van Heerden, Lecturer Department of Communication Science, UNISA
  42. Keyan G Tomaselli, Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg. Professor Emeritus, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
  43. Elna Rossouw, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Film and Television, University of Johannesburg.
  44. Pier Paolo Frassinelli, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of Johannesburg
  45. Ylva Rodny-Gumede, Associate Professor, Department of Journalism, University of Johannesburg
  46. Colin Chasi, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of Johannesburg
  47. Phyllis Dannhauser, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Film and Television, University of Johannesburg
  48. Ruth Teer-Tomaselli, Professor, Media and Cultural Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  49. Nicola Jones, Senior Lecturer, Media and Cultural Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  50. Sarah Gibson, Lecturer, Centre for Communication, Media and Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  51. Mike Maxwell, Media and Cultural Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal
  52. Ayesha Mall, Head of Department of Media, Language and Communications, Durban University of Technology
  53. Anthony Collins, Professor, Department of Media, Language and Communications, Durban University of Technology
  54. Maud Blose, Lecturer, Department of Media, Language and Communications, Durban University of Technology
  55. Robin Sewlal, Senior Lecturer, Department of Media, Language and Communications, Durban University of Technology
  56. Deseni Soobben, Lecturer, Department of Media, Language and Communications, Durban University of Technology
  57. Lizette Rabe, Professor and Chair, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  58. Gabriël Botma, Senior Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  59. George Claassen, Professor Extraordinary, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  60. Marenet Jordaan, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  61. Corli van der Merwe, Rykie van Reenen Fellow, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  62. Wiida Fourie-Basson, Part-time lecturer and science communication specialist, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  63. Arrie de Beer, Professor Extraordinary, Department of Journalism, Stellenbosch University
  64. Charles King, Journalism Lecturer, Media Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  65. Nic Theo, Senior Lecturer, Media Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  66. Colin Charles Adonis, Lecturer, Media Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  67. Zubeida Vallie, Photography & Photojournalism Lecturer, Media Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  68. Ashraf Jamal, Media Studies, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  69. Asanda Ngoasheng, Journalism Lecturer, Media Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  70. Jude Mathurine, Journalism Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
  71. Lizette Odendaal, Head of Department: Journalism, Tshwane University of Technology
  72. Hilke Steenkamp, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Tshwane University of Technology
  73. Sholain Govender-Bateman, Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Tshwane University of Technology
  74. Pedro Diederichs, Former Head of Department, and part-time lecturer, Department of Journalism, Tshwane University of Technology
  75. HC (Bok) Marais, S&T Network, Former President South African Communication Association
    Liesbet van Wyk, Cape Town
  76. Sean Jacobs, Associate Professor, The New School, New York
  77. Kiva S.Joseph, Tutorial Assistant, Department of Mass Communication, Uganda Christian University

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21 October 2015

STATEMENT FROM THE SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNICATION ASSOCIATION

RE: Student protests and related Freedom of Expression rights

SACOMM is the professional representative association which represents academics and scholars in South Africa, working within the fields of the communication sciences, including media studies, journalism, film, corporate communication and communication in general.

We note with concern the various instances of violation of freedom of expression and speech rights, accompanying the current student protests against the rise of university tuition fees.

Nationwide, our students and academics have legitimate concerns over the rising cost of tuition fees, which serve as a mechanism for economic exclusion from higher education. The students and others protesting peacefully in solidarity, are within their constitutionally protected rights to express these concerns through protest action, assembly, organising and mobilising, and via media communications channels such as the social media.

The efforts at various sites around the country to deny student groups from practising these rights are deplorable, since they violate the principles of an open democracy, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, and the fundamental human rights of free expression, speech and the right of assembly and/or protest. Such recent transgressions of these rights include:

  • The Western Cape High Court interdict regarding student protests at the University of Cape Town, including the apparent interdiction of the hashtag “#FEESMUSTFALL”, which amounts to the banning of a free speech act that is unconstitutional and therefore unlawful.
  • The reported shutting down of the Wifi service at the University of Pretoria, which disenables students from making use of communications networks during the protests, including the social media.
  • The shutting down of the University of Pretoria campus by security, thus preventing students from partaking in their right to assembly on the campus.
  • The presence of an armed police contingent at recent protests near the Wits campus – a clear threat to the safety of students while practicing their free expression rights of protest and assembly.
  • The arrest and detention of students at the University of Cape Town.
  • The use of stun grenades and rubber bullets by the police against protesting students at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, causing injury to some students.
  • The various instances of police violence against protesting students at the Tshwane University of Technology (which has been recurrent for some time).
  • The use of violence and stun grenades by public order policing against students outside of Parliament in Cape Town.

We call on all university managers to show respect for our scholars and we call on scholars to respect the rule of law, and with university managers to foster open channels for constructive engagement. We ask that you remind yourselves that the students are entitled, by law, to utilise all modes of communications, including the social media, to organise, debate, connect, and disseminate their messages. But we also deplore the use of intimidation, threat and violence by any party.

We call on the South African Police Service and all campus security workers to practice restraint and ensure the safety of our young people, while allowing them to practice their right to have their voices heard through the actions of protest and assembly.  By the same logic, we must respect the rights of those who wish to continue with their rights of association and freedom of assembly on campuses.

We offer solidarity to our academic colleagues at various campuses around the country, who have shown support to the students, and attempted to act as mediators between security workers and police in order to ensure the safety of the student protestors.

SACOMM stands in support of the struggle of students to make quality higher education a more accessible reality for all scholars willing to learn. No one should be made poor from attending a university.

 

For further comment contact:

Prof Colin Chasi (SACOMM President): 082 555 0436

Prof Pier Paolo Frassinelli (SACOMM Communication Advocacy focus group): 072 338 0406

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