Let me say at the outset that I have always had great relationships with security companies and great respect for their reaction officers. They are also invaluable sources. But last week, at a crime scene at the Witpoortjie Pick n Pay, I had a less than pleasant run-in with not only an employee from a well-known security company but also, as usual, with the police.
I had just arrived on scene and was still about 10m away from the crime scene tape when a man, eyes bulging, red in the face, started screaming at me like a manic street preacher: “Get off my crime scene, get off my crime scene, you can’t take photos!” Really? Your crime scene? Last time I checked it was the police’s crime scene. Next thing, a female cop in plain clothes comes across to me, wailing like a banshee, saying something in a similar fashion. My security guard friend then threatened to arrest me, although, as a journalist, I have the complete right to take pictures. I then heard him ask the female cop to check whether there is an outstanding warrant for my arrest, so that he could arrest me. Again, really? So a cop is taking instructions from a security reaction officer, deliberately trying to arrest me, all while our Constitution guarantees us freedom of the press and of speech?
And of course there is the following standing order for the police. My favourite; Standing Order 156. What I find shocking though is how many police officers do not know this standing order, or at least pretend not to know it. So let me remind them. (Oh yes, you, the civilian have exactly the same rights).
The Standing Order 156 states clearly on page nine at point 10 under the heading ‘Conduct in public and towards a media representative’ that “a member must treat all media representatives with courtesy, dignity and respect, even when provoked, and promote ethical communication with the media”. Point 3.a under the same heading states that “although the media may be prohibited in terms of section 69 of the South African Police Service Act, 1995, from publishing certain photographs and sketches, a media representative may not be prohibited from taking photographs or making visual recordings”. Point 3.c also states that “a media representative may under no circumstances be verbally or physically abused and cameras or other equipment may not be seized unless as an exhibit in terms of any law”.
So to my abusive friends – for the sake of our readers who have a right to know, I will not leave this matter lying.
Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at [email protected] (remember to include your contact details) or phone us on 011 955 1130.
For free daily local news on the West Rand, also visit our sister newspaper websites