Are investigative journalists being targeted by police?
Are investigative journalists Jacques Pauw and Pieter-Louis Myburgh, who have both written about alleged corrupt relationships involving President Jacob Zuma, being targeted by police? Are the police attempting to intimidate them? Legalbrief notes these are legitimate questions following recent events recorded in a report on the News24 site.
Although police say no case against the two has been opened, both, according to their legal representatives, have been requested to make statements at the Durban North police station in a matter apparently relating to material they have written about.
A police officer, based in Durban North, indicated to their attorneys that he was the investigating officer in the matter. National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo, asked whether the case may not have been registered as a case to be investigated, but as an inquiry, said: ‘Due to the sensitive nature of such matters we are unable to discuss them in the public domain.’
A letter by the lawyers representing the journalists – Willem de Klerk Attorneys – is more revealing, notes Legalbrief.
The letter was sent to a colonel, the investigating officer, who had spoken to Willem de Klerk about the matter. The News24 report notes the letter is headed: ‘Criminal investigation: Jacques Pauw and Pieter-Louis Myburgh.’ ‘From the said telephone discussions it appears that Mr Pauw is regarded as a potential suspect related to material contained in his book The President’s Keepers,’ the letter said. ‘It further appears that Mr Pieter-Louis Myburgh is a potential suspect based on an article or articles he may have authored which appeared in the news media.’ It said the investigating officer had not been willing to disclose further details about what was being investigated.
The letter confirmed a request by the investigating officer that Pauw and Myburgh go to the Durban North police station to answer questions, or to possibly make statements or do both. ‘Our clients are not at this stage willing to answer questions or make statements but would prefer for the investigation to be completed first,’ the letter stated. However, Pauw and Myburgh would give their full co-operation if the NPA decided to act against them. News24 editor Adriaan Basson said the police investigation amounted to attempted intimidation. ‘It is outrageous that the cops are going after journalists when corrupt politicians and captured business people roam free,’ he said.
The SA National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) has questioned the police motives. Sanef’s deputy chairperson Katy Katopodis said the organisation was deeply concerned by the reports, notes another News24 report. ‘This is very, very concerning for us as Sanef. We see this as an intimidation tactic,’ she said. ‘Our message as Sanef is very clear: We’re not going to stay silent… Journalism is not a crime,’ Katopodis said. She said the organisation was monitoring the developments and would continue to speak out against any attempts to intimidate journalists.
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