The growing number of assaults and harassment of journalists was highlighted when a follower of controversial pastor Tim Omotoso appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday for allegedly assaulting a television reporter and cameraman, as well as a freelance journalist.
eNCA editor-in-chief Anton Harber, who was at court to support his staff who were allegedly attacked outside Omotoso’s North End ministry last month, said it was concerning to note the rising number of such incidents against journalists.
“We all have to send a message that it is not acceptable, we’re doing our jobs – it is important to this country and to our democracy,” he said. “There is a worrying pattern. “We’re getting increased reports of journalists being assaulted while covering [stories].”
Harber’s comments came on the eve of World Press Freedom Day today.
eNCA cameraman Nceba Ntlangiso, 42, eNCA reporter Sandy McGowan, 42, and freelance journalist Norhi Manona, 44, were allegedly assaulted by congregants of the Jesus Dominion International while covering the arrest of Omotoso, 58, on charges of sexual assault and human trafficking last month.
Church congregant Lusapho Nqinileyo appeared in court yesterday on charges of assault and damage to property. Manona’s camera was damaged during the attack.
Afterwards, Ntlangiso, Manona and McGowan went to the Mount Road Police Station to lay a complaint.
Nqinileyo, in turn, also laid an assault complaint against Manona and Ntlangiso.
However, the NPA decided to withdraw his counter charges of assault yesterday after video evidence showed the journalists being assaulted by congregants.
“I think it validates our view that our journalists were just doing their job,” Harber said. “They were the victims of the assault.” Manona, who has been a journalist for more than seven years, said: “We came to the church to get comment.
“When we got there, a woman started shouting at us and a group of guys came out of the church.
“Lusapho [Nqinileyo] came out and hit me. I’m not sure if it was with a fist or a flat hand – he hit me in the face.
“He tried to pull my camera and continued to try and rough me up.”
Ntlangiso also had to fend off people who tried to grab his camera, while McGowan, who was grabbed and pulled into the church, was then pushed out into Govan Mbeki Avenue and the doors of the church were shut.
The case against Nqinileyo was postponed to July 6.