Amnesty Calls on IEC to Investigate TV Journalist's Arrest at Soweto Polling Station, South Africa. Photo: Video screenshot

GAUTENG – The South African Police Service (SAPS) say they were forced to remove a television journalist and a cameraman from a polling station at a primary school in Orlando East, Soweto, after the Newzroom Afrika team allegedly interfered with the work of the presiding officer at that station.

In Newzroom405’s video (watch below), a police officer can be seen blocking the camera by standing with her back (buttocks) to the lens. Towards the end an officer can be heard explaining to the confused and accredited journalist, Ziniko Mhlaba, that his offence was to have “distracted the presiding officer”. When the journalist refuses to move away (“I’m not moving”), he agrees to be arrested.

SAPS Brigadier Naidoo said: “It is rather unfortunate that this situation resulted in a confrontation between police and the journalist.

“This matter has since been escalated to the Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng who ordered both the release of the journalist and an investigation into this matter.”

Newzroom Afrika Director, Thabile Ngwato, tweeted: “Our reporter @zinikozini has been released after being unlawfully detained at a voting station this morning. As a business, we are taking this matter with the seriousness it deserves.”

Amnesty International SA says it is calling on the IEC (Electoral Commission of South Africa) to investigate the reported arrest. Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed told Newzroom that “journalists must be allowed to report on the elections without intimidation or harassment”. She said matters of concern are also alleged “excessive use of force” and the “manhandling” of witnesses who were taking photos.

“It was reported that citizens filming the incident were allegedly manhandled by the SAPS. This heavy handling and obstruction of journalists is a violation of their rights and it must cease immediately,” said Amnesty.