Suna Venter‚ one of the journalists that came to be known as the SABC 8‚ was found dead in her flat in Fairlands in Johannesburg on Thursday morning.
The journalist was a senior producer of RSG current affairs and had recently been diagnosed with stress cardiomyopathy‚ what is known as broken heart syndrome‚ her family said in a statement.
The condition is said to have been caused by trauma and prolonged periods of unnatural stress.
Venter was one of eight journalists suspended by the SABC after they voiced their concern about editorial policies including the policy of refusing to air protest footage‚ which have subsequently been reversed by the new interim board at the broadcaster following a parliamentary enquiry.
They were all dismissed from their positions‚ but the Labour Court reversed these after an application was made‚ and the dismissals were found to be wrongful.
In the year since the SABC8 came under fire‚ Venter was “the victim of continued intimidation‚ victimisation and death threats‚” her family said.
She received various threatening SMS messages. Her flat was broken into on numerous occasions‚ the brake cables of her car were cut and her car’s tyres were slashed.
Her family said she was abducted and tied to a tree at the Melville Koppies while the grass around her was set alight.
On a separate occasion earlier this year‚ she was shot in the face with an unknown weapon and received surgery to remove the metal pellets from her face. During the past year‚ she was assaulted on three various occasions.
“Those closest to her believe that her condition was exacerbated‚ if not caused‚ by the events of the past year‚” the statement read.
Venter was at the SABC for eight years.
Executive producer of RSG Current Affairs Foeta Krige said she was passionate about international news and current affairs. Venter also had a deep love for Syria.
“She cared so much about the situation in Syria that she took leave right after the war began to report for RSG from the frontlines‚” says Krige.
“She remained passionate about the welfare of the children she encountered on these assignments‚ up until her death.”
For the past year‚ as part of the so-called SABC 8‚ her main aim was to establish an independent newsroom free from editorial interference within the embattled public broadcaster. Krige said that Venter was one of the most dedicated and passionate journalists that he ever had the pleasure of working with. Even when doctors advised her to walk away from the stressful working environment at the SABC‚ she replied that she cannot go before the battle is won.
Venter is survived by her father and mother‚ Phillip and Christa Venter‚ and brother and sister Wilhelm and Tessa.