The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) on Tuesday commended the SABC 8 for refusing to back down in the face of intimidation and death threats.
With news of threats to the journalists’ lives emerging at the weekend, the campaign said there was a “secret war” being waged.
“The attacks on these whistle-blowers suggest the crisis at the SABC is at the level of mafia politics,” it said in a statement.
“This is a pattern that we have seen before when individuals have the courage to speak out against those in power. The fact that these attacks have specifically targeted the women of the SABC 8 is particularly disturbing.”
The SABC came under criticism in July when it fired Suna Venter, Foeta Krige, Krivani Pillay, Thandeka Gqubule, Busisiwe Ntuli, Lukhanyo Calata, Vuyo Mvoko and Jacques Steenkamp for speaking out against the broadcaster’s policy to not show footage of violent protests.
Subsequently, the eight journalists, who were rehired by the SABC in September following a lengthy labour court battle, filed papers at the constitutional court asking for the national assembly to institute an inquiry into the various issues plaguing the broadcaster, including their dismissals.
At the weekend, the Sunday Times reported on various incidents of intimidation and death threats — mostly targeting Venter, but also affecting others in the group.
Venter, who remains in hiding, confirmed the incidents reported by the Sunday newspaper.
Acts of intimidation began with threatening messages sent in August and a break-in at her house in September. However, since October, the number of incidents has increased significantly.
These include being shot at with ceramic bullets while driving home at night, following which a text message was sent saying: “Next time, won’t miss.”
In another incident, electric wires on her brakes were cut. She has also been the victim of tyre blowouts and punctured tyres.
Most recently, this Saturday her car — parked at her secret location — was broken into and goods inside were disturbed, but nothing was taken.
Nevertheless, Venter reiterated that she would not drop out of the court case.
Krige echoed Venter’s sentiments. “We will never back down.”
He said all the journalists wanted was for the newsroom at the SABC not be subjected to interference.
R2K demanded that the police offer full protection to any of the individuals who request it.
It said the police must step up the investigation of these attacks and arrest those responsible.
“To address the root causes of this intimidation Parliament must take swift action and dissolve the SABC board. Hlaudi Motsoeneng must be fired once and for all,” it said.
“SABC leadership must be rebuilt from the ground up, ensuring it is independent from government pressure and accountable to the public, and ensuring that it is a workplace that protects and celebrates internal dissent and debate.”
The public was asked to support and defend the whistle-blowers.