By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has called on the South African Police Service (Saps) to immediately cease the surveillance of journalists.
In a statement released on Saturday Sanef labelled this as a blatant act aimed at threatening journalists and compromising media sources and whistleblowers.
"Sanef condemns the threats, intimidation, and bugging of investigative journalists by the Crime Intelligence division of the South African Police Service. Sanef calls on the SAPS to immediately cease the surveillance of journalists," reads the statement.
"The latest journalist to be threatened is the Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm, who has become a target of a Crime Intelligence investigation into the leaking of documents. Thamm was the victim of a house burglary this week during which her work laptops were stolen. Other valuables were left untouched."
It said that Thamm reported on documents that were submitted in court papers by former Crime Intelligence head Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs.
"The fact that the SAPS has confirmed a formal investigation into leakages to journalists is underway creating the unavoidable suspicion that Thamm’s break-in is linked to the investigation into her sources."
It said that Thamm is in possession of internal communication from the SAPS confirming that her reporting on court papers by Jacobs is deemed as a "leak" to the media.
"When she challenged SAPS spokesperson Vish Naidoo about this, he responded as such: "The fact that this latest document was leaked to yourself reinforces the need to investigate these leaks, but this time with even greater urgency."
It has since called this nothing less than a blatant threat to Thamm and other journalists that they will be investigated.
The forum added that News24 journalist Jeff Wicks also received numerous reports from police sources that he was under surveillance by Crime Intelligence. It said that Wicks and Thamm have reported extensively on the fallout in the upper echelons of Crime Intelligence.
"This has undermined the rule of law and is a stark warning of the dangers to the democratic future promoted by the Constitution."
The forum said that it will write to Police minister Bheki Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa to request that those responsible to order such "illegal surveillance of journalists are seriously dealt with."