'MEDIA FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK'

ISSUING a subpoena against eNews to identify criminals interviewed on the air about their plans to target the 2010 World Cup infringed media freedom and freedom of speech, the SA Press Council said yesterday.

ISSUING a subpoena against eNews to identify criminals interviewed on the air about their plans to target the 2010 World Cup infringed media freedom and freedom of speech, the SA Press Council said yesterday.

"The police are seeking to circumvent the journalists' right to report without fear and the public's right to know by issuing this subpoena," said council vice chairperson Bewyn Petersen in a letter published in Business Day.

He was responding to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's move to subpoena two eNews journalists to reveal the identity of the men who made their criminal intentions known in an interview aired last Friday.

A source linked to the story has since committed suicide.

"When the story broke I found myself hoping that e.tv would resist the pressure from the police ... I am dismayed that I have not seen anyone in government oppose this action, "Petersen said.

"If the police are successful it might prevent journalists from having access to similar situations in the future and even endanger their lives. Should this happen, we will lose one of our most fundamental rights - the right to know - and it is our right to decide for ourselves."

e.tv has declined, on legal advice to say how it plans to respond to the subpoenas to reveal its sources. Its news editor, Ben said, and reporter Mpho Lakaje have to appear in court on Monday if they fail to comply.

The channel said on Tuesday that Lucky Phungula, who was found dead in Soweto, was the go-between who had put the reporters in touch with the self-confessed criminals interviewed.

It implied in a statement that only he had known their true identities.

Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi said the 43-year-old man was found dead in the outside toilet at his home in Soweto. He appeared to have poisoned himself and left a suicide note asking Lakaje to take care of his teenage daughter.

The Hawks are still continuing their investigation into the case. - Sapa

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