Judge: Media ban justified in Krejcir case

2012-12-06 20:04

Pretoria - A ban on media attending the refugee appeal hearing of controversial Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir was justified, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled on Thursday.

Judge Hans Fabricius dismissed an application by the Mail & Guardian, Independent Newspapers and Media24 for a court order allowing them access to the hearing.

Last year, the organisations obtained an interim interdict to stop the hearing from continuing pending the outcome of their application for access.

Krejcir came to South Africa via the Seychelles with a false passport in 2007.

He launched an appeal after his application for refugee status in South Africa was turned down.

In 2010, the South Gautneg High Court in Johannesburg overturned the government's refusal to extradite Krejcir to the Czech Republic and ordered that his case be reheard.

The Refugee Appeal Board turned down applications by the media organisations to attend Krejcir's appeal hearing on the grounds that all refugee appeals were heard in secret, and that it had no discretion to allow journalist to attend.

The organisations contended that the board's rules gave it the discretion to grant the media access in exceptional cases, but Krejcir launched a counter-application to have the board's rules declared invalid.

The media organisations argued that Krejcir was a high profile public figure and that most of the information he now wanted to keep secret was already in the public domain.

They said the public had an interest in knowing whether a person such as Krejcir, who was suspected of having links to organised crime in South Africa, would be granted asylum.

Blanket ban

Fabricius said section 21(5) of the Refugee Act, which stated that the confidentiality of asylum applications had to be ensured at all times, was clear from a linguistic point of view.

"'All times' does in my view not mean sometimes. 'Confidential' means not intended for public knowledge," he said.

"In my view the provisions of section 21(5) are absolute in its content and do not give the board any discretion to allow the press access in so-called 'appropriate' cases."

He said the section infringed upon the freedom of the press and other media, and the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas as provided for by the provisions of the Constitution.

However, he ruled that the blanket ban on access by the public was justified.

He said the integrity of the asylum system, the safety of witnesses, the fact that a refugee might be unwilling to return to his country of origin, the asylum-seeker's privacy and dignity interests and the general fairness of the asylum-hearing outweighed the limited interest of the applicants.

Fabricius said whatever crimes Krejcir might have committed in South Africa were irrelevant, as only crimes committed prior to entry of the country of refuge were relevant under the provisions of the Refugees Act.

"According to various newspaper reports of some weeks ago, all criminal charges were withdrawn against the second respondent [Krejcir]," he said.

"If any acts committed in South Africa are relevant, closing the hearing has virtually no impact at all on the right and opportunity of the media to report on such.

"They would be able to attend any relevant criminal court hearing."

He said that if there was legitimate public interest to know on what grounds Krejcir could be granted asylum, then the interest had to "yield" to more general public interest in the integrity of the asylum system.

Fabricius also granted Krejcir's counter-application and declared that the Refugee Appeal Board rules published in the Government Gazette in September 2003 were invalid.

He said it was clear that the board had no power to make rules during the period in which the board had not even existed as a legal entity, and when there had been no empowering legislation in place for it to act.

  • zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-12-06 20:17

    Hand that cash over...........

  • Benjamin - 2012-12-06 20:50

    Don't you just hate crooked judges. No surprise our wonderful government wants to keep this despicable things blood money in our country.

  • Jack - 2012-12-06 22:30

    Fabricius said whatever crimes Krejcir might have committed in South Africa were irrelevant Wow, come on in criminals of the world, you are quite safe with our judicial system. I suppose only if you have a hundred million or so.

  • Sammy Willow - 2012-12-06 23:49

    he will stay, his money sponsers the ANC, and i speak from first hand knowledge, he isnt going anywhere till zuma is out, and that is guaranteed

      marilyn.docherty.9 - 2012-12-07 08:17

      I thought there was a snake somewhere in the grass!

  • eric.f.moloi - 2012-12-07 00:29

    Some criminals are treated with kid gloves,justice ends on papers,judges r always using their own discretion

  • piet.boerie - 2012-12-07 04:33

    Ask bra Shaik, he knows all. How can a convicted criminal get rights over tax paying legal citizens? He is scum and should be kicked out and sent back. So we know protect criminals? Opps my bad I forgot about Shaik, Mac and Zooma.

  • flysouth - 2012-12-07 10:04

    Why should this criminal who entered SA illegally on a false passport be given the privilege of any hearing at all? Take the case of Australia - should I visit Australia and whilst there decide to apply for residence I will be immediately turned down and if I have been there for more time than allowed on a tourist visa I will be arrested and deported. People can only apply for residence there whilst OUTSIDE the country. I believe the same applies in many countries where the rule of law is treated seriously.

      zapadela.tistarocha - 2012-12-07 13:45

      As a Kiwi citizen, You are correct regarding other countries protocol for illegals applying for residency.

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