JOHANNESBURG, July 2 – The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Sunday expressed sadness at the death of journalist Suna Venter, 32, one of the so-called SABC 8, and at the same time strongly criticised the Black First Land First (BLF) organisation for its threats against various journalists.
“Venter tragically passed on last week due to ‘broken heart syndrome’ following a series of attacks aimed at her after she had raised concerns over editorial policies at the SABC, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation director Neeshan Balton said on Sunday.
Venter was among the “SABC 8″who were dismissed from their posts for voicing concerns over the SABC’s now overturned ruling banning violent protest footage.
“We extend our condolences to Suna’s family and her colleagues. We have also noted the passing of SABC camera operator Zama Mbalo, Carte Blache’s Johann Botha, and anti-apartheid photographer Ranjith Kally all in a very short space of time. Our condolences are extended to their families as well,” Balton said.
“We can never underestimate the role that journalists play in promoting and upholding the constitutional value of freedom of speech. We must laud journalists like Suna, who despite intimidation stood resolute.”
Balton said that last year anti-apartheid struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada had met two of the SABC 8 to extend his support to their cause. “We were left shocked at some of the details they shared with us about the level at which the values of free speech and public’s right to access of information was being compromised from some quarters. It was however, inspiring to see how ordinary journalists were willing to put their jobs, and sometimes even their lives, at risk to uphold the Constitution and to serve the country.
“It is disturbing that some find it acceptable to intimidate journalists. We condemn the recent targeting of the Business Day’s Tim Cohen and Peter Bruce by Black First Land First (BLF). We also find BLF’s statement targeting a list of white journalists and calling on certain black journalists to ‘repent’ most objectionable,” he said.
“We cannot allow journalists to be intimidated into changing their headlines simply because a group of people threaten them into doing so. What makes it all the more worrying is that the BLF group is known for its outright defence of the Gupta family,” Balton said.
“We come from a past where free media was suppressed. With this history we know too well the type of crimes that are allowed to go unnoticed without the media fulfilling its ‘watchdog’ role. A free and independent media is a central pillar of our democracy and must be protected,” Balton said.