Cop illegally bugged Sunday Times calls

30 July 2017 - 00:00 By Athandiwe Saba

As journalists increasingly come under fire and are harassed and assaulted, a precedent-setting judgment was handed down this month.
Bongani Cele, a former police officer with crime intelligence, was convicted in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court of illegally bugging the phones of Sunday Times reporters Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter.
Six years ago Cele received a warrant to monitor the phones by lying to a judge. He said the numbers were those of suspected criminals who were under investigation.
The reporters had been investigating the police's R500-million deal for a lease from property mogul Roux Shabangu.
At the time former inspector-general of intelligence Faith Radebe said the bugging had been ordered through proper channels.
Cele was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended for four years. His defence is appealing the conviction.
Right2Know campaign organiser Murray Hunter said the conviction was a "major media freedom issue". He said it was possibly the first prosecution of illegal bugging in South Africa. "Right2Know has been tracking the court case over the years, as it is a hallmark case study of how journalists have been targeted with surveillance."..

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