Date: May 21, 2020

South Africa: Investigate assault on journalist by the police and guarantee media freedom during COVID-19

In response to reports that journalist, Paul Nthoba, has been forced to seek refuge with the United Nations in Lesotho after being allegedly assaulted by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“Amnesty International South Africa joins the South African National Editors’ Forum and the Committee to Protect Journalists’ to call for the assault on Paul Nthoba to be promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigated and for those suspected to be responsible to be brought to justice in fair trials. The South African government must guarantee his safety so that he can return home and continue to carry out his work freely and without any intimidation, harassment or reprisals.

Journalists are advancing the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, and if they cannot freely do their work, the promotion and protection of other human rights will be undermined.  A vibrant and free press reporting on human rights and other related issues that shape our lives is a key building block of any society. They must be allowed to do their work free of attack, harassment, intimidation and threats, during the lockdown period and beyond.

South African authorities must guarantee media freedom during the lockdown period.”


Paul Nthoba, the owner and editor of the weekly Mohokare News local newspaper in the Free State, South Africa, was allegedly assaulted by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Friday, 15 May 2020, while he was covering SAPS visibility in the township of Meqheleng near the Lesotho border. When he reported the incident at the Ficksburg police station, he was allegedly abused and assaulted again. After seeing marked police cars near his home this week, he fled to Lesotho out of fear for his life where he is under the protection of the United Nations office in the country.

The incident follows an earlier one when News24 journalist Azarrah Karrim was caught in the crossfire when police fired rubber bullets to disperse pockets of people loitering in the streets of Yeoville, Johannesburg, on day one of the nationwide lockdown. Azarrah Karrim was on the scene filming the incident on a nearby street, when pedestrians suddenly started running to safety after being fired on by the police. In the video, multiple shots can be heard being fired at Karrim, despite her shouting ‘I'm media’ to police.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;