Maharaj lays charges against M&G

2011-11-19 16:19

Johannesburg - Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj's attorneys laid charges against the Mail & Guardian newspaper and two of its journalists on Saturday.

"Attorneys acting on behalf of Mac Maharaj, laid charges against Mr Sam Sole, Mr Stefaans Brümmer and the Mail & Guardian Newspaper for contravening the provisions of section 41(6) of the National Prosecuting Act of 1998," Maharaj said in a statement.

They also requested the police to investigate whether records of National Prosecuting Authority inquiries had been stolen.

The charges relate to Friday's edition of the newspaper, the front page of which featured a picture of Maharaj alongside the words: "Censored. We cannot bring you this story in full due to a threat of criminal prosecution."

Big black blocks were printed over about three quarters of the page, where the story would have been published.

‘Won’t hold up in court’

The Act makes it an offence to disclose evidence gathered in camera by a section 28 inquiry - providing for a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail, reported the Mail & Guardian Online on Thursday evening.

Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes said the charges would "not wash in any court", as Maharaj's instigation of legal action leaned heavily on the newspaper's possession - rather than disclosure - of the information.

"The Act pertains to the disclosure of information, [the way the story was published] we did not disclose it," he said.

"There is absolutely no basis in fact or in law for charges to be brought against us. It is clearly a pretext to use the resources of the police to search for information on our sources and the state of our investigation into the arms deal."

Dawes said the newspaper would seek legal advice.

He said he hoped the attention the incident had generated would raise public awareness about threats to press freedom in South Africa.

"The public has the right to know," said Dawes.

- SAPA

Read more on:    mail and guardian  |  mac maharaj  |  nic dawes
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