THE recent footage beamed all over by e.tv of criminals threatening to rob tourists during the World Cup and to shoot their way out of any situation undermines the efforts of the government to fight crime in the country.
While appreciating that the journalists in question were performing their duty I believe e.tv could have handled the matter differently considering the crime challenges we are facing.
One is left with no choice but to infer that e.tv wanted to embarrass our government and gloat over being in touch with those the police cannot apprehend.
The airing of such threats in the name of public interest and the responsibility on the side of reporters to protect sources raises very serious questions around media freedom, freedom of expression in relation to being responsible and objective while reporting.
Protection of sources of information is a basic tenet of ethics in journalism, but the question is at what stage is it applicable?
It cannot be a principle that simply exists and cannot be questioned even if the security of citizens and visitors is under threat. It should go along with some elements of responsibility where the lives of people are exposed to danger.
What the criminals were saying on television can never be equated to an incident in which, for example, a source (criminal) gives information about how they steal cars in a parking lot.
This issue has divided journalists and academics on whether it was correct for such footage to be beamed to millions and followed up by coverage in newspapers.
We are already battling with negative coverage by foreign media questioning our ability in terms of security for the soccer extravaganza. What e.tv did was to perpetuate these perceptions and to scare off potential visitors. And that is tantamount to treason.
The subpoenas served on e.tv journalists should send a strong message that though they are operating in a free environment journalists should also understand that the environment is governed by laws that seek to ensure that their freedom is not abused.
The use of section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act should not in any way be seen to be tantamount to censorship or a threat to media freedom.
This is a serious issue where people can die.
It is about time that we see some level of responsibility from media houses. There must be fairness and balance in reporting.
We are aware of the mediation process between the police, Sanef and e.tv to find a way of resolving this matter. I hope the saga will further raise a serious debate in the country on the issues of media freedom, public interest, journalism ethics, media ownership and crime.
Phaladi Seakgwe, ANCYL Sekhukhune