Sanef approaches Equality Court in bid to stop threats and intimidation from Malema, EFF

2018-12-19 11:48
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Gallo Images / Alaister Russell)

EFF leader Julius Malema. (Gallo Images / Alaister Russell)

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The SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) has lodged a complaint in the Equality Court against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and its leader Julius Malema, in an attempt to stop them harassing and threatening journalists.

Sanef says it has approached the court in defence of media freedom and that it is seeking protection against sustained intimidation and threats against journalists by Malema and his supporters.

The body, and a number of senior journalists and editors, are also calling for an apology from Malema and his party.

Along with the apology, Sanef is seeking an interdict that will prevent Malema and the EFF from intimidating, harassing, threatening or assaulting journalists. This includes acts of intimidation or harassment on any platforms, including social media.

It has also sought to prevent Malema or his party from publishing journalists' personal information.

In a statement, Sanef said it "did not take this decision to institute legal action against the EFF lightly". It noted that, while it believed in "the South African way of resolving disputes around a table", attempts to meet the party and its leadership had been unsuccessful.

Sanef's lawyers lodged the complaint with the Equality Court on Tuesday.

The papers contain several affidavits from a number of journalists - including Ranjeni Munusamy, News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson and Max du Preez - who have been intimidated and threatened in recent months.

In her affidavit, Munusamy complained that she had to block Malema on Twitter because, whenever he directed anything toward her, she would bear the brunt of his supporters' wrath. 

She raised concerns after Malema called on supporters to "visit journalists in their homes for evidence and motive".

'Worried about my safety and the safety of my family'

Munusamy also claimed that State security operatives had told her she was in physical danger.

The Tiso Blackstar associate editor was also harassed by three men while shopping near her home.

"While shopping, I noticed three men looking at me. As I walked past them, they repeatedly called my surname in a mocking tone. I tried to ignore them, walking past them quickly. They were waiting for me at the entrance of the shop when I left."

Basson said he was also deeply offended after Malema tweeted that he would meet with Sanef if they didn't bring "racist things like your white boy", referring to Basson.

He said he did not understand why Malema would call him this. He said the only reason he could think of was a column he had written two days earlier criticising the politician.

Basson said he was now more careful with his public movements after what had happened to Munusamy.

"I have become worried about my safety and the safety of my family. I do not mind being criticised, even harshly so, but Mr Malema's comments encourage attacks on me and other journalists."

He added: "While a journalist can reasonably be expected to have a thick skin, the scale, extent and abusiveness of the inflammatory commentary I have had to endure is overwhelming and caused me to be very fearful for my physical safety."

'They have a campaign against the EFF'

Responding to the complaint, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party and Malema were not attacking freedom of speech.

He said that there was a group of journalists, including Basson and Munusamy, who attacked the EFF through opinion pieces and editorials.

This meant that the journalists should also be open to public criticism, he said.  

"This is not journalism. They have a campaign against the EFF. All they write are these opinion and editorial pieces. You cannot hide behind that. That is an abuse of journalistic tools. These people are not on the ground writing stories. Therefore, they are campaigning."

He added: "They have lots of analysis and opinion, for what? Why direct so many of these toward the EFF? That is not journalism. They come into the political arena when they do this. When we come for them, they want to raise the curtain of journalism. They are not writing or doing journalism."

Read more on:    sanef  |  eff  |  julius malelma  |  media  |  politics

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