Monday, July 2, 2012

SA journos assaulted, molested by officials, Cape Town Refugee Centre, forced to delete pix

South African journalists assaulted, molested by officials at Cape Town Refugee Centre: forced to delete their photographs from cameras: Journos stopped from covering CT Refugee Centre closer — photos deleted nts Two journalists for 'TheBigIssue' publication who tried to report on the closure of Cape Town's Dept of Home Affairs refugee centre in Maitland, were physically ejected by by security guards and their photographs deleted by a centre official -- who claimed the journalists did not have “permission” at the public government venue. The journalists were outside the centre at the time, interviewing refugees standing in the snaking queue and they were taking photographs. “A security guard approached us at around 11h00 and said we were not allowed to take photos,” said Khanyisa Tabata. “He became very aggressive.” According to fellow journalist Silje Sunde Kroken, another security guard then called a centre official, who only identified himself as “Enoch”. The journalists were escorted by security into the building where they were told to delete their photographs. “They told us we had not gone through the proper process for media, so were not allowed to talk to people or take photographs,” she said. The journalists complied under duress and were then escorted from the premises by security guards. “This is unbelievable and an extremely worrying example of media intimidation and harassment,” said Melany Bendix, editor of The Big Issue. “Our journalists were in a public place — not inside the centre — and, as such, they had every right to interview whomever agreed to be interviewed and take photographs of whomever consented to be photographed.” Zandile Ratshitanga, spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs in the Western Cape, could not comment on the incident immediately and said she would look into the matter. She acknowledged that journalists should be allowed free access and promptly arranged for The Big Issue’s journalists to return to the centre, with the support of the centre’s acting manager, Santo Mohateloa. Bendix said she appreciated the quick response from Ratshitanga, but still insisted on getting clarity as to why the journalists had been ejected in the first place. She said The Big Issue had not ruled out laying charges against the centre and its staff, including the security guards. Ongoing complaints Allegations of heavy-handed treatment by security guards at the Maitland centre have been rife over the past few months. In April, The Big Issue reported how an asylum seeker had died while waiting in the queue, reportedly after his calls for assistance had been ignored by security manning the queue. The following day a Zimbabwean man claimed he was brutally beaten by security guards. The incident, which occurred in front of witnesses, was reported to the police. Other refugees claimed guards regularly harassed and intimidated them, while some alleged guards had forced them to pay bribes in order to move up in the long queue. ------------

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