Editorial: Violence must not be tolerated

Coming hard on the heels of a shameful, violent episode in council, the latest physical attack on a journalist from this newspaper is an equally vile example of the levels of intolerance eroding our democracy.

There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of mob thuggery which targets a member of the media going about the business of covering a news story – a fundamental pillar of the public’s right to know what is happening around them.

The fact that this was one of a string of attacks on journalists from The Herald reporting on political or other issues provides some idea of the degree to which those responsible have lost sight of the role of a public watchdog, directing their anger in a hopelessly inappropriate direction. However justified grounds for protest are, there has to be due regard – and that includes the media.

It does not help that one of the first people to instigate the attack was a former ward councillor, who was quick to backtrack and claim she was actually trying to protect the reporter. Her actions speak otherwise.

The council brawl last week has been roundly condemned as a demonstration of a complete breakdown in civil norms, one that tears away at the very fabric of many a local government election manifesto – a commitment to build up communities, to empower them, to instill a sense of dignity.

The ANC and DA can exchange verbal blows all they like – heated bouts which were always anticipated given the tumultuous changing of the guard which many sitting in what were previously ruling seats clearly did not anticipate. Or possibly preferred not to contemplate. But violence is a no-go. Have we forgotten so soon how it was the appalling machinations of a brutal and oppressive apartheid regime – hellbent on retaining its bloody grip on power – that led to some of the worst human rights abuses and crimes imaginable.

It all starts when respect for others is lost.

That is what happened in council with unprecedented scenes of blood-soaked victims of assault confronting us. And it is what occurred again on Monday when a reporter was left fearing for her life.

Let those who allow their aggression to overrule civility contemplate that.

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