The Equality Court has ruled against the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and five journalists in an application to interdict the EFF from intimidating, harassing and assaulting journalists.
The five journalists are News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Tiso Blackstar associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, Eyewitness News senior journalist Barry Bateman and Vrye Weekblad editor Max du Preez.
“The complainants have failed to establish that being a journalist qualifies as protection under section 10 and 11 of the Equality Act. The respondent’s conduct does not qualify as hate speech,” ruled Judge Daisy Molefe on Thursday.
Molefe said journalists were not implicitly guarded against hatred by the law – it’s not like your skin colour or ethnicity, which a person has no control over.
Getting into journalism “is a choice” and therefore the same protections provided for under Section 16 of the Constitution do not apply as they would to other hate speech cases.
The application was dismissed and no cost order was granted to the complainants.
Sanef and the journalists – in their founding affidavit – contended that the conduct of the EFF constituted hate speech as defined in section 10 of the Equality Act and in turn breached section 10 and 11 of the Act.
They also argued that the EFF was in violation of Section 16 of the Constitution in the process.
The EFF submitted that Sanef and the journalists failed to establish the hate speech claim and the harassment claim and urged the court not to “waste its time”, saying the case should be dismissed with no costs order.
The EFF, in a statement on Thursday, said that it welcomed the judgement and reiterated that journalists who take sides should “never be regarded as professionals”.
“Journalists who take sides, using journalism as a platform to pursue propaganda interest of politicians, must never be regarded as journalists,” the statement read.
The utterances that sparked the application stemmed from EFF leader Julius Malema’s speech outside the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture last year when he called on his followers to deal decisively with certain reporters who he accused of defending “white monopoly capital”.
The journalists said they were subjected to intimidation, harassment and death threats, and that Malema did not condemn the comments.
Advocate Molefe said journalists were not implicitly guarded against hatred by the law – it’s not like your skin colour or ethnicity, which a person has no control over. SC for the EFF previously told the court that “trolls from faceless and nameless Twitter accounts were harassing the Red Berets just as much as they were anyone else: Sanef was adamant that Malema was inciting violence and ill-sentiment towards some of their members online.
Kate Skinner, Sanef executive director, said the organisation accepted the decision and promised to respond once the full verdict was shared.
“Sanef has noted the judgment by Judge Daisy Molefe of the Equality Court, dismissing Sanef’s case that harmful and hateful statements made by EFF leader Julius Malema, his colleagues and supporters against journalists constitute hate speech and harassment,” said Skinner in the statement.
“Sanef is disappointed that the ruling was not in our favour, but maintains we were fully justified to have approached the courts after numerous instances of threats and intimidation were issued by the EFF against journalists. We also wish to emphasise that the recourse to the courts was a last resort after efforts to meet the EFF failed,” said Skinner.
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