Philasande Makhenke, a loveLife groundBREAKER (peer motivator and community mobiliser) who is part of the organisation’s Media Ys programme, was arrested today for filming potholes on the R61 main road in Bizana, Eastern Cape. He was on his way to the Bizana Y-Centre when the incident happened.

loveLife’s Media Ys Programme is a multi-media citizen journalism programme, which is a platform for self-expression. The multi-media content produced by Media Ys shapes and amplifies youth opinion in South Africa. As trained citizen journalists, the Media Ys groundBREAKERs play a thought leadership role in shaping content. They galvanise a movement of youth expression which in turn tangibly contributes towards building social capital among the most marginalised youth in South Africa.

Philasande was filming the road for a Media Ys documentary highlighting the lack of adequate infrastructure in the area when the guy driving behind him stopped his car accusing Philasande of filming him. He didn’t allow Philasande to explain and insisted that they go to the police station. When they there, the guy in the car explained that Philasande was filming him. The police officers had already started harassing him, one clapping his groundBREAKER cap telling him to take it off and asked him why he was filming people on the road. They told him to produce a lettr that permitted him to film anywhere and point his camera at people. Philasande then called Fikile Ka-Ntanzi, the National Manager of loveLife’s Media Ys Programme, who then intervened and asked to speak to one of the police officers or the guy who was accusing Philasande of filming him. All parties refused to talk to Fikile.

She called again to try and seek clarity. Eventually, a Warrant Officer Tinyane agreed to talk to her, after she’d told the groundBREAKER to ask the officers how they would receive the letter if they weren’t prepared to talk to her.

Fikile spoke to Tinyane and asked for clarity on the situation. He informed her that he wasn’t interested in hearing anything. He just wanted the letter confirming that Philasande was a citizen journalist. Fikile

requested greater clarity on the matter and charge for his arrest. Tinyane explained that Philasande was going around filming citizens and that the police were simply doing their job. A man came through to the police station to lay a charge that Philasande was filming him. Fikile contested this and said there was no law prohibiting any person from filming roads or potholes or in fact any citizens. In this case, the boy wasn’t filming anyone. The officer argued that until Fikile proved that he was a journalist, he wouldn’t let him go. Once he’d received a fax from Fikile, Philasande was eventually let off.

Philasande feels that he was badly disrespected and that all he was doing was highlighting the challenges of road infrastructure in the community. Fikile condemns the actions of the Bizana Police Station officers as a violation of section 16 of the constitution that gives rights to freedom of the press and expression. Community journalists have become a critical mass, reporting positive and negative issues in communities. If this intimidation is allowed, a critical voice will be stifled and that cannot be allowed. Media diversity, access and ownership is a constitutional right.