journo charges dropped

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

After spending a night in jail, a journalist was told that charges against him had been dropped.

Mhlaba Memela, a Sowetan reporter in Durban, was arrested on Wednesday night by eThekwini Metro police while covering an accident scene. He was arrested for refusing to stop taking pictures of a minibus taxi which had ploughed into a furniture shop.

Memela was charged with resisting arrest and inciting the public. He spent the night at CR Swart police station cells in the city centre. He was due to appear in court yesterday, but the case was thrown out by the Durban magistrate's court after the prosecutor declined to prosecute.

Zane Haneef, Memela's lawyer, confirmed that the charges were withdrawn against the reporter.

"The state declined to prosecute as the case had no merit. There was no evidence against Memela except what the police were saying. The control prosecutor believed it's a minor matter that did not need the attention of the court," said Haneef.

South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) condemned the conduct by the police.

Raymond Louw, chairman of Sanef's media freedom committee, said the organisation regards such interference as "serious interference with the role of the media, and demands that investigations be instituted and the guilty officers punished".

Memela said he was yet to decide on whether or not to press charges against the officers who arrested him.

Sowetan's Durban bureau chief, Mary Papayya, said they are delighted at the outcome of the situation. "No journalist should be arrested for doing his job.

"We are calling on the eThekwini Metro police to ensure that the law takes its course and arresting officers be brought to book."