MyNews24 is a user-generated section of The stories here come from users.

Comments: 6
Article views: 206
Latest Badges:

View all ProJusticio's badges.

You and the media -- the Secrecy bill

11 May 2012, 15:26
There are understandably serious concerns about the Protection of Information Bill Government is seeking to introduce. When a government seeks to interfere with media freedom it is nearly always for bad reasons; very bad reasons. It is right that we be all very concerned and passionately oppose the letter and spirit of this Bill.

However, with respect, there is an unarguable point in one respect. Having been involved in law for over 40 years, including as an advocate and as a judge, I have not the slightest doubt that this aspect needs urgent changing/tweaking. At present the media can, and does, publish defamatory articles/reports about a citizen without having first afforded the citizen any opportunity to deal with the allegation(s).

When the report later turns out to wholly or partly untrue, it is too late. The damage has been irretrievably done. An apology, even an award of monetary damages, does not retrieve/redress the damage done. This must be changed to bring things in line with the common law. You see it is a fundamental rule of such law, substantive and procedural, that no Court can condemn a person, including making adverse finds about the person, without having first ensured that the person has had full opportunity to both face his/her accuser and deal with the accusations. Now if the courts cannot do it why should the media be allowed to? It is a no brainer.

In my book, “The Other –without fear, favour or prejudice” I give a classic example of the problem in relating a case in which I acted for the late Minister Edson Jonasi Zvobgo in Zimbabwe. I also refer to an instance where City Press and Elias Maluleke purposefully published a scurrilous article about my wife and I, implying that we were criminals who had obtained residence in South Africa illegally. When we produced written proof of the falsity, both declined to retract or even apologize. Right there our good name and reputation, built up over 50 years, was contemptuously put in jeopardy. In our case, the false publication was in furtherance of a nefarious agenda, as a prelude to forcing me out of the Road Accident Fund, on account of the fact that my interests were to reform the system to primarily benefit road crash victims and not the plethora of “service providers”. The same thing appeared to have occurred as regards Geraldine Pillay, a great athlete and wonderful human being. Here again, innocuous facts were dredged up, tailored and slanted to do damage, in furtherance of an ulterior agenda, i.e., to prevent her election to the Athletics Board.

In June 2011 we saw this scourge unfolding again as regards the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela who, like us, first heard of seriously damaging allegations, impugning her personal and functional integrity, when these are head lined in the Star newspaper. The paper published a headline article crafted to give readers the impression that she was about to be arrested for corruption. To date, it has provided not a shred of evidence that the police had made a decision to arrest her and/or that they had a basis for doing so. Yet again, July 2011, we had an article penned by senior journalist, Eric Miyeni, of City Press reading – "Haffajee does it for white masters. JULIUS Malema must never answer a Ferial Haffajee. Who the devil is she anyway if not a black snake in the grass, deployed by white capital to sow discord among blacks? In the 80s she'd probably have had a burning tyre around her neck. We know where she comes from. She was groomed by The Mail & Guardian, the same newspaper that produces the Jacob Dlaminis of this world, black people who say it was nice to live in the townships under apartheid. And today we must believe that Haffajee's utter hatred of ANC politicians is based on journalistic integrity. Quadruple crap. I am more inclined to think that people like Haffajee, who edits City Press, are most likely to be the kind that wakes up in the morning, sees their black faces in the mirror only to feel a wave of self-hatred rising up to nauseate them." The above article was highly injurious to Ferial Haffagee on any number of counts, unlawful and put her at personal risk. In the context of South African politics, where people have very been “necklaced” in the Eastern Cape. The article could not have be more damaging.

Now we even seem to have a similar problem as regards none other than Julius Malema.In law injury is injury; whether to the person or the personality. Injury to a person is criminalized. Injury to personality should, at least be, prohibited. The law must be changed so as to ensure that no report about a person that may impugn his/her name and/or reputation may be published unless the same test that binds the courts has been satisfied. In addition, the person’s response must enjoy equal exposure as the report itself. The indicated format is perfectly simple. Before the media can publish information that is defamatory it must run the information past the affected person and then publish his/her response with the same prominence that the damaging report is given.

Failure should, inter alia, incur summary judgment in punitive monetary damages in favour of the victim. This model is quite easy to draft. “After the fact” remedies, like “strengthening the Ombudsman’s office’ or a Media Tribunal are not the answer. Prevention must be the primary objective. The change is indicated on a human rights test. It is jurisprudentially unarguable. It is as simple as that. The Bill has been postponed for another month. Take action now.It should be noted that the media has shown a singular disinterest in this proposal. Now please note the irony of the media quite rightly opposing a claimed right by government to decide what should be published but, at the same time, seeking to protect that same facility on its own behalf as an unfettered, uncontrolled right.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Lutgen Landman
Kurtley Beale: A life of scandals

Lets take a look at the rap sheet for Kurtley Beale over the past few years. Read more...

5 comments 1217 views
Submitted by
Hennie Potgieter
Are we losing our ability to reas...

Why is it that we can get so hyped about things that do not directly concern us, or that we do not understand? Read more...

21 comments 453 views
Submitted by
Jef Front
Corruption in Southern Cape

Advocate Francois Human has exposed various incidents of corruption, bribery, intimidation, political plots and schemes that makes the Mafia look like amateurs. Read more...

4 comments 155 views
Submitted by
Johnny McIntyre
Sticking your head in the dagga

The war on drugs has been raging on for a few decades to no avail. Drug use, especially cannabis, is at an all time high and continuing to grow as increased enforcement efforts seem to have no effect.  Read more...

26 comments 1732 views
Submitted by
Legens Monspubis
Religion should remain in all sch...

Children should be exposed to all religions , both current and past. It should be taught to them on an even basis and particular emphasis should be placed on its history.  Read more...

144 comments 1112 views
Submitted by
Mazrui and the South African serv...

As much as Ali Mazrui saw in West Africa, the problem of western appetites without complementing and satiating western technologies, the same comparison could easily be made in urban SA. Read more...

3 comments 180 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

C# Developer ( Hire Resolve )

Cape Town
Hire Resolve

Ass. Operations Manager

Western Cape
Cozens Recruitment Group ( Western Cape)
R23 000 - R25 000 Per Month

Internal Sales Person (Spares)

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Star Personnel
R10 000 - R13 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25



E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

Interactive Advertising Bureau
© 2014 All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.