Lion ad: Acsa insists balance needed

2013-05-27 16:36


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Johannesburg - The Airports Company of SA (Acsa) accepts that its decision to remove Avaaz's anti-lion bone trade campaign posters from OR Tambo International Airport affected its freedom of expression, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg heard on Monday.

But there had to be a balance between Avaaz's rights and Acsa's rights as custodians of the image of the country and the role of "Brand SA".

"Forty images on four sides of 10 pillars at the international arrivals hall do not represent the best image of the country," said Kate Hofmeyr, for Acsa.

The campaign, which featured a picture of a lioness looking down the barrel of a gun with President Jacob Zuma in the background and a message calling on him to take action, ran for nine days last August.

Acsa then told Primedia - contracted by Avaaz to produce and place the posters - to take them down.

Avaaz, a global civil action group, took Primedia and Acsa to court, submitting the removal was unlawful because it was a breach of: contract between Primedia and Avaaz; of freedom of expression in terms of section 16 of the Constitution; and the constitutional right to administrative action in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

Avaaz wants an order declaring the removal, after nine days in August, unlawful, and that the campaign be reinstated for the remainder of the 22-day contract period.

Hofmeyr said the image of a lioness looking down the barrel of a gun was not appropriate, given the country's problem with gun violence.

The then Acsa assistant general manager, Tebogo Mekgoe, was concerned about an implication that Zuma might condone hunting lions.

The decision to remove the campaign was taken by four people at an hour-long meeting.

Avaaz itself asked the government before the court action to take action on the trade in lion bones to prevent the "stain" on the country so it, too, was aware of the impact on the country's image.

It had other ways of getting its message across - through the internet and petitions.

Hofmeyr said an Acsa statement earlier in the dispute that there had been complaints was "factually incorrect".

She confirmed there had been no complaints from the public. Acsa had actually been rational and reasonable in its actions, she contended.

The case continues.

Read more on:    acsa  |  avaaz  |  advertising  |  animals

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