Sunette Bridges loses bid to move hate speech case

2015-01-20 14:51
Sunette Bridges (Facebook)

Sunette Bridges (Facebook)

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Cape Town - Afrikaans songstress Sunette Bridges has lost her application to move her hate speech case, filed against her by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), from the Western Cape to Gauteng.

The 43-year-old singer has been dogged by claims that her personal Facebook page facilitated racism over the course of the last five years.

The matter was finally heard in the Western Cape Equality Court on Tuesday, as a case of hate speech, filed by the SAHRC, and heard by Judge Siraj Desai in Cape Town, with the main issue of the day centring on whether the Western Cape Court had jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Advocate Paul Kruger, attorney for Bridges, felt it unreasonable that his client be asked to litigate the matter 1400km from her home in Pretoria, and requested the case be moved to Gauteng.

When asked to provide a legal reason why the Western Cape Equality Court, where the complaint was filed by the SAHRC, should not hear the case, though, Judge Desai deemed Kruger’s response as inadequate.

“The attorney for Ms Bridges has failed to give a satisfactory reason why this case can’t be heard in the Western Cape. This court has jurisdiction,” Judge Desai concluded.

 “[However] the matter could be very easily resolved outside the court.”

Advocate Anton Katz, counsel for the SAHRC, was happy with the decision to allow the case to be heard in Cape Town, arguing on a point of common law that where a story is produced and read, not written, is the place of publication.

According to Katz, she had two Facebook pages, one under her personal name and one entitled "Sunette Bridges News Page", which focused on issues of concern to the conservative white Afrikaans community, Sapa reported.

Despite the minor loss, Kruger maintains though that the issue at hand, of whether Bridges is liable for the content of other users on her Facebook page, can still be defended.

"My client is being held accountable for comments made by other people. She herself never used the k-word, nor quoted Adolf Hitler," he said, after the SAHRC cited two examples of other commentators' posts on Bridges's Facebook page.

Katz, though, felt the issue was a matter of constitutional rights, and argued that Bridges did have a case to answer to.

"If these examples are evidence of hate speech, Sunette Bridges is playing sport with the Constitution,” he said.

“Are these examples evidence of hate speech or not? That's what we want the court to tell us."

Bridges is the daughter of the late Afrikaans singer Bles Bridges, Sapa reported.

The SAHRC wanted Bridges to post an unconditional apology on her Facebook pages and remove the hate speech and harassment it had identified.

Proceedings will start again on 2 March for initial deliberations, with the case commencing in earnest on 20 April.

Read more on:    sunette bridges  |  cape town

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