A journalist from The Herald was forced to leave her home in Plettenberg Bay after threatening messages were allegedly directed at her in a community WhatsApp group. The SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) said it was appalled by the claims of harassment and intimidation.
HERALD JOURNALIST TAKING REFUGE IN SAFE HOUSE
The Eastern Cape-based publication, which also covers the Garden Route in the Western Cape, said the journalist in question was targeted over her coverage of the ongoing clashes between migrants and locals in Kwanokuthula, Plettenberg Bay.
Earlier this month, GroundUp reported that dozens of immigrants were forced out of their homes in Kwanokuthula by local residents. Unhappiness and conflict between South Africans and migrants in the area has been building since August.
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SANEF said The Herald’s editor, Rochelle de Kock, told the Forum that her journalist was now living in a safe house.
“So bad has the situation become that the reporter and the publication decided that her news reports will no longer carry her name in order to mitigate the intimidation and make her feel more at ease in a community in which she too is a member,” said SANEF.
The reporter covered a protest by the group of locals who clashed with migrants on 1 September when she was accosted. “They pushed her around and demanded she delete the footage she had taken. They threatened to break her phone. She was shaken by the incident and we told her to leave the scene,” said De Kock.
This week, on Tuesday, 20 September, the publication received screenshots of a conversation in a local WhatsApp group. The locals allegedly expressed their displeasure at the work done in Kwanokuthula by journalists and encouraged each other to “deal” with the Herald reporter and a journalist linked to GroundUp.
SANEF said the intimidation was anathema to democracy and it was indicative of the chilling effect such actions have on journalism when reporters do not feel comfortable using their names on their stories.
“SANEF finds the intimidation and threats against journalists unacceptable. We will always condemn this. We will support the Herald as a case has been opened, and we hope law enforcement agencies take appropriate action,” said the Forum.
The Herald reported that a case of intimidation was opened at Kwanokuthula police station.
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