Media heads to ConCourt over Refugee Act

2013-05-13 20:26
The Constitutional Court (Picture: Sapa)

The Constitutional Court (Picture: Sapa)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Argument on sections of the law on the confidentiality of asylum applications, will be heard in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.

At issue is the constitutionality of a provision of the Refugee Act.

The question is whether absolute confidentiality is a justifiable limitation of the right to freedom of expression under the Constitution.

The Mail & Guardian Media Limited and others have brought an application for leave to appeal a decision by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, concerning a provision of the Act, which provides that the "confidentiality of asylum applications and the information contained, therein, must be ensured at all times".

In December, the high court said a ban on media attending the refugee appeal hearing of Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir was justified.

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

Interim interdict

Last year, the media groups obtained an interim interdict to stop the hearing from continuing pending the outcome of their application.

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 Gauteng 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 (RAB) turned down applications by 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 reporters 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.

Public interest

The media argued that Krejcir was a high profile public figure and that most of the information he 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.

Judge 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.

The court dismissed the application and declared section 21(5) of the Refugees Act to be constitutional.

At the Constitutional Court, the applicants will argue against an inflexible rule of confidentiality, contending that it is an unjustifiable limitation of their right to receive and impart information.

The applicants seek an order to read into the Refugees Act that the RAB has a discretion to allow any person to attend a hearing and to publish a report about it, subject to any conditions determined by the board.

Not confidential

The applicants will argue that information concerning Krejcir is in the public domain and, therefore, not confidential, and that the particular circumstances of the case would permit a departure from the rule of confidentiality.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre has been admitted as a friend of the court.

Last year, Krejcir was sentenced to 11 years in jail in his home country for money-laundering involving R227m.

Krejcir, who wanted refugee status in South Africa, was convicted in absentia.

Read more on:    independent newspapers  |  mail & guardian  |  media24  |  radovan krejcir  |  refugees  |  media

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X 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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
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.