Four news photographers doing their job have been attacked by security guards in the past two weeks in South Africa and Malawi, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported today.
Last week, a South African photographer working for the Star newspaper, Motshwari Mofokeng, was fired on by a security guard as he was taking pictures of homeless people being evicted from an empty Johannesburg factory, where they have been living, CPJ said.
Mofokeng was hit in the chest and later reported the matter to the police, and before that the guard assaulted Mofokeng and threatened to break his camera, according to the New York-based media watchdog.
Security guards in South Africa seem to be the law unto themselves, and often violently assault people that they are assigned to guard for no apparent reason, as Mofokeng found out.
South African cops also act the same way, usually arresting journalists and photographers at crime scene, and deleting their pictures.
In the Malawian capital Lilongwe, the Nation photographer Thoko Chikondi was punched and manhandled by a security guard while taking images of a consumer rights activist delivering a petition to parliament on May 30, CPJ reported.
On May 22 in Cape Town photographer David Ritchie and female colleague Yolisa Tswanya got into trouble while interviewing family and friends of refugees who had been arrested for not carrying their identity documents.
A Home Affairs official grabbed Ritchie and told him to delete the photos, Tswanya told CPJ, adding that when he refused the official tried to take his camera and dragged him into the police station courtyard.
Five days later in Cape Town, Cape Argus freelance photographer Thomas Holder was grabbed and pulled by two security guards, and punched in the chest, CPJ said.
Holder’s ‘crime’ was to take pictures of hundreds of asylum-seekers waiting to renew their papers at the Refugee Reception Centre on Cape Town’s Foreshore.
The increasingly ‘unfair’ and ‘inhumane’ treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers by South African state officials, cops and security guards often get widespread coverage from local and international journalists, who watch the refugee space with an eagle’s eyes.
Violence against critical media has worsened in Southern Africa in recent years, and journalists have been finding it difficult to do their job freely.
“The heavy-handed actions in each case reflect a belief among those responsible for security that they are above the law and not publicly accountable,” CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine said.
In risky situations such as street protests or conflict zones, photographers and camera operators suffer disproportionate rates of fatality, according to CPJ investigations.
Photographers and camera operators constitute more than 35% of journalist fatalities since the beginning of 2011, a period marked by large-scale civil unrest in the Arab world and conflict in the Middle East and South Asia, the media watchdog added.
Photo courtesy of the Star newspaper/CPJ