South Africa: Journalism Organization “amaBhungane” Considering Legal Advice Following Alleged BLF Attack on Journalist
James de Villiers, News 24, July 17, 2017
Investigative Journalism organisation amaBhungane is considering legal advice following an alleged attack on one of their investigative journalists Micah Reddy by Black First Land First (BLF) members on Monday morning.
Members of BLF grabbed and swore at Reddy following the filming of a debate on fake news for the SABC television show Daily Thetha at Shine Studios in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, Reddy said five men and women walking with BLF leader Andile Mngxitmana started heckling him after he exited the studio following the debate.
“They were gesturing and shouting at me at once, accusing me of spreading fake news and making other assertions that I could not quite make out amid all the noise and confusion,” Reddy said.
Reddy said after he asked whether they were BLF members, one individual unzipped his jersey to reveal his BLF T-shirt and said he is “proudly BLF”.
“Some other individuals who were bystanders and were not part of his group tried to hold him back to prevent him from reaching me. However, I hadn’t immediately realised that they were running after me and the one particularly aggressive individual (wearing the BLF T-shirt) had got close enough to lash out at me with a kick,” he said.
“Someone else had managed to get behind me and I felt a firm tug on my backpack and jacket. A woman was swearing and grabbing at me, trying to stop me from walking away from the fight. Some other bystanders interceded and tried to extract me from the melee.”
Reddy said he was then escorted by studio staff into a waiting room and asked to wait there until BLF members left the area.
“After what I estimate to be about 15 minutes since being ushered into the room, staff members came to tell me that they felt it was probably safe to leave. However, they seemed concerned that the BLF members might wait to ambush me as I made my way to my car outside, so they suggested that a staff member accompany me,” he said.
Reddy did not elaborate whether he would press charges with the South African Police Service.
Speaking to News24 on Monday morning, Mngxitama claimed BLF members were provoked by Reddy.
“They must stop panicking. They must stop provoking us.”
He said BLF members allegedly heard Reddy swearing at them.
“When I got out, there was an altercation and I stopped the commotion. He is lucky because we don’t fight black people.”
The BLF leader added that he did not fear any criminal charges against him, encouraging Reddy to press charges.
“Let them go, I was there. I will be [a] state witness… they are trying very hard to create the impression that we fight.”
In the same breath however, he reiterated that Reddy was lucky he was a black journalist.
“If it was [a] white journalist, we would have dealt with it by any means necessary.”
The incidents come just days after the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) won a court interdict against BLF and Mngxitama at the High Court in Johannesburg preventing members from intimidating, assaulting, and going to journalists’ homes.
The editor of Business Day, Tim Cohen, was reportedly assaulted as he attempted to take a picture of BLF supporters who had gathered outside Tiso Blackstar editor-at-large Peter Bruce’s house in Johannesburg.
amaBhungane, along with Daily Maverick, News24 and other publications have been reporting on a cache of leaked emails that implicate the controversial Gupta family with senior government officials. The leaked emails also implicated Mngxitama and the BLF in dealings with the family.