The New York-based media freedom watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Wednesday called on South African authorities to drop charges against a journalist, Ricky Dire, who was roughed up and detained after photographing police officers allegedly involved in bribery. CPJ, in a statement received here by PANA, said the journalist who works with the Daily Sun, also received death threats.
Dire explained to CPJ how on 18 January, he responded to a call from store owners at a shopping centre in Rustenburg North, a platinum mining town.
According to the CPJ, the store owners had told the journalist on previous occasions that they routinely had to pay bribes to the local police.
Dire said he took 'three or four' pictures of two police officers who were talking to shop owners as well as of their vehicle license plate.
But he pointed out that he did not see any money change hands and the conversation reportedly ended when police spotted him taking photos, he said.
The journalist also alleged that the police officers gave him several blows before arresting him.
On the other hand, Police spokesman, Sgt. Kealeboga Molale, was reported to have said that the arresting officers charged Dire with intimidation and resisting arrest.
He was also claimed to have been drunk, all of which the journalist denied. He is due to appear in court on 6 February.
Daily Sun Deputy Editor Reggy Moalusi told CPJ that the police threatened to keep Dire in jail for the weekend, but he was released around midnight after the newspaper's lawyers were called.
When his cellphone was returned to him, all the photographs had been deleted, Dire told CPJ.
The journalist also claim to have received two anonymous text messages that threatened his life.
'Free and independent media that show what is happening in society are a vital part of democracy,' said Sue Valentine, CPJ's Africa programme coordinator.
'As South Africa celebrates 20 years of freedom, we urge authorities to ensure that all officers understand and respect the right of journalists to do their jobs without fear of intimidation or violence, and that those who commit abuses are punished.'