TWO journalists and a self- confessed criminal are to appear in court today, but a number of organisations have come out in support of the media house.
Police have Issued subpoenas demanding that the two journalists divulge the details of two self-confessed criminals who appeared on the channel last week. One said he would rob tourists during the World Cup. The other said he would be prepared to shoot his way out of a stand-off with police if he felt his life was in danger.

While police continued to search for the second man, the first, who was out on parole for robbery would appear in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on charges of Intimidation and inciting violence, Musa Zondi, spokesman for the the Directorate for Priority Crime investigations (Hawks). said yesterday.

Journalists Ben Said and Mpho Lakaje were served with subpoenas under Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act ordering them to appear In the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court today. The pair have been asked to provide:

• The names, addresses and contact details of the persons interviewed.

• Full particulars of who brought the firearms visible during the programme to the interview, who possessed the firearms during the interview and what happened to the firearms after the interview was completed.

• The original and unedited footage of the interview.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and the Freedom of Expression Inst Itute have questioned the serving of the subpoenas.

In a statement, Sanef called on police and prosecuting authorities to withdraw the “ill-advised aud unjustified” subpoenas.

“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 ther confidential sources.”

Sanef had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the authorities that outlined a process to be followed In the event of the police or the prosecuting authorities seeking confidential information from journalists.

The purpose of this had been to avoid journalists being arrested and prosecuted for refusing to identify confidential sources.M

Melissa Moore, acting executive director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, described the issuing of the subpoenas as “the controversial point at which conflicting rights collide”, “Freedom of expression lies at the heart of our democracy and it is the media’s role to give effect to this right by acting as the ‘public’s watchdog’ and gathering information which is of public interest for dissemination to the public at large.

“The protection of this information is essential for the proper and effective funct ioning of the media.”

The institute would submit an urgent request to the Law Reform Commission for the review of Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act and the introduction of a shield law that would ciarlfS’ the legal landscape and the roles and duties of the media and the authorities in this regard.

Source: Cape Times – Michelle Jones