Malema: Journalists are 'politicians' who should grow thicker skins

2019-07-05 17:44
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

EFF leader Julius Malema. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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EFF leader Julius Malema has accused the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and a group of journalists who took him to the Equality Court of being "politicians" who want to silence him and the EFF.

In an affidavit filed with the Equality Court in Pretoria on Thursday, Malema lashes out at the journalists and accuses them of advancing a "counter-narrative" that "actively promotes" President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

This, Malema claims, is the journalists' "own iteration of state capture".

Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase filed a founding affidavit in the case in December, requesting the court to declare Malema's threats against journalists as hate speech and forcing him and the EFF to apologise to the affected journalists.

The other complainants in the case are Sunday Times associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Vrye Weekblad editor Max du Preez and Eyewitness News journalist Barry Bateman. These journalists were either attacked or threatened by Malema or EFF supporters in person or on social media. 

Malema denies the allegations of hate speech and says journalists are not above the law and should have a "thicker skin and be more willing to accept criticism".

Malema's defence is built on the following arguments:

  • That the complaining journalists are actually politicians who are advancing political agendas and don't deserve special protection under the law;
  • That neither he, nor the EFF can take responsibility for what EFF supporters say or tweet on social media, and;
  • That the true purpose of the Equality Court application is to silence him and the EFF from legitimately criticising journalists.

Malema says the complaining journalists have "whitewashed" the contributions of Ramaphosa and Gordhan to the so-called "nine lost years" under former president Jacob Zuma.

"The EFF and I contend that so pernicious is the complainants' agenda – with its political consequences – that it, too, amounts to a form of 'state capture'."

'Attempt to muzzle the EFF and me'

Malema says journalists have "actively engaged in using their various media platforms to delegitimise the political views of the EFF and me because, as is evident, the complainants favour President Ramaphosa and Mr Gordhan for their own reasons".

Sanef and the journalists are gunning for the EFF, Malema says, because they are "shattering the myth regarding their objectivity and impartiality [and] are also making them more accountable than ever to the news-consuming public". The EFF leader argues that what the complainants ultimately want to achieve is to "muzzle the EFF and me", and that this is, "ironically, the greater threat to free speech".

"They (the complainants) are engaged in a calculated process of trying to create a sufficiently damaging atmosphere, that will tempt the court into granting them over-inclusive and unduly invasive relief. Should the court be tempted to acquiescing in such a strategy, even inadvertently, it will have the consequence of silencing me and the EFF. That will be disastrous," Malema claims.

In response to Sanef's request for an apology, Malema states that it would be improper for him or the EFF to apologise for the conduct of EFF supporters. "That being said, to the extent that the complainants require some kind of apology (assuming that I can give it), then here it is: I am sorry."

Malema is asking the court to strike the matter from the roll, alternatively to dismiss it with punitive costs to Sanef and the journalists.

Judge Daisy Molefe is scheduled to preside over the matter on August 5.

Read more on:    sanef  |  eff  |  julius malema  |  pravin gordhan  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  hate speech
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