The forum of the country’s editors say it appears the journalist was acting in the interest of the public.
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) on Monday said they were concerned about the arrest of Suburb News journalist Etienne Mare for alleged double voting last week Friday and would support him legally.
Mare, who is an editor himself for the Mpumalanga-based news outlet, was arrested on 10 May 2019 after posting a video online claiming that he was on his way to vote for a second time after hearing from a female voter that she had been able to vote several times.
Both the female voter, 57-year-old Malinda Halloway and the 52-year-old Mare were charged with contravening the laws governing elections in the country when they appeared at the Barberton Magistrates Court on the Friday morning.
Mare had wanted to test whether the electoral system was really easy to cheat while scores of people queued countrywide to cast their votes.
In the video he showed that it was easy to rub off the indelible ink mark on his thumb. The ink is used to prevent voters from voting twice.
Mare specifically spoilt this second vote so that it would have no impact on the election results, SANEF said in a statement on Monday this week.
“SANEF does not believe that journalists are above the law and we are aware of the fact that it is an offence to vote twice.
“However, it appears that Mare was genuinely operating in the public interest,” said SANEF.
“He resorted to these measures to conclusively test the IEC systems with the purpose of highlighting possible electoral fraud. The fact that he spoilt his second vote is an indication of the fact that he was not trying to subvert the voting process,” the forum said, adding they are looking at ways to offer legal support.
(edited by ZK)
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