The South African government has invoked Apartheid era legislation to force journalists to reveal confidential sources or face jail.
The government wants to force a TV station to reveal the identities of two self-confessed criminals it interviewed anonymously who spoke about how criminal gangs are preparing for the World Cup.
ETV issued a statement saying that;
Two eNews journalists have been served with subpoenas in terms of Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act.On the same day it was reported that a man that had acted as a 'facilitator' between the TV station and the criminals killed himself, although the circumstances around his death do not appear to be public knowledge.
This follows an eNews story by Mpho Lakaje – aired on Friday January 15th – which featured interviews with two self-confessed criminals. One of the criminals stated that he would rob tourists during World Cup 2010. Another said that he would be prepared to shoot his way out of a standoff with police if he felt his life was in danger. This was in response to a question as to what he thought of the police’s new tougher approach to fighting crime.
State prosecutors require Ben Said, eNews Group News Editor and Reporter, Mpho Lakaje to appear in court on 25th January unless they provide the following:
· the identity (names and surnames), addresses and contact details of the persons interviewed.
· full particulars of who brought the firearms visible during the program 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 matter is currently with eNews’ attorneys.
It may appear to be worthwhile to infringe a few journalists rights in order to arrest two dangerous criminals (or try to) but the short term benefits would have long term negative consequences, not least that it would prevent journalists being able to guarantee their sources anonymity - massively hampering the ability of the press to do its job, that's a high price to pay which could lead to far more deaths than could be prevented through invoking this law.