Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

South Africa row over World Cup 'criminals' TV report

By Karen Allen
BBC News, Johannesburg

Football fans in South Africa, file image
The pair said they would rob tourists and fans at the World Cup

South Africa's ruling party has backed police demands for a TV station to help arrest two self-confessed criminals who appeared in a news report.

The pair, whose identities were concealed, claimed they would target tourists during this year's football World Cup.

The ANC says it is right that courts have demanded that the ETV journalists involved reveal their sources.

But journalism groups say the move threatens press independence.

Apartheid-era law

The airing of the broadcast has caused a furore in South Africa.

The African National Congress leadership is trying to repair the country's image after questions have been raised about its record on tackling crime.

The temperature has been raised still further with news that the man the TV company says acted as a facilitator for the interviews has apparently killed himself.

The police have demanded that the commercial station ETV help them arrest the alleged criminals that appeared in their programme.

But the South African National Editors Forum is appalled that apartheid-era legislation is being invoked.

The forum claims the move puts in jeopardy the independence of the press.

It says journalists should not be used as freelance informants of the police.

ETV said in a statement that state prosecutors had asked news editor Ben Said and reporter Mpho Lakaje to supply them with the identities and contact details of all the people interviewed for the report.

A court date was set for 25 January.

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