EFF has created a toxic and hostile environment for journalists, court hears

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EFF leader Julius Malema (PHOTO: Jabu Kumalo)
EFF leader Julius Malema (PHOTO: Jabu Kumalo)

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and his followers have sent tweets which have targeted journalists in a way that constitute hate speech, the Equality Court sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Monday.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and five journalists have taken the EFF to the Equality Court over the "intimidation" of journalists.

Sanef has argued that the court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter. The journalists are News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Pauli van Wyk, Barry Bateman, Ranjeni Munusamy and Max du Preez.

Advocate Daniel Berger SC, representing Sanef and the journalists, argued that the applicants had brought the application to protect themselves and their colleagues from the "abuse" they had endured. Berger said the EFF has created an environment which had become particularly "toxic and hostile" for journalists.

The matter comes after Malema's comments in November 2018, outside the state capture commission of inquiry, where Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was testifying.

Malema accused the media of ignoring allegations made by the EFF that Gordhan's daughter was in business with the state, News24 previously reported.

He further identified specific journalists, who he accused of protecting Gordhan.

'My lady, that can't be right'

Malema said: "These crooks who are calling themselves journalists are sitting with those questions they have never asked Pravin. The deputy president of the EFF came here yesterday and spoke.

"Instead of repeating those quotes, they asked Pravin: 'Why is the EFF attacking you?' I want the EFF leadership from today and the membership to know we are not answering any question(s) from Tiso Blackstar, Daily Maverick, Scorpio, and e.tv which ask us about our wives, about our relatives, about anyone we know, until we ask Pravin these questions in a live interview."

Malema likened the media to the apartheid government's "Stratcom" disinformation campaign, and called Tiso Blackstar "hypocrites".

FOLLOW LIVE | Sanef: Malema's 2018 comments outside Zondo commission were a 'call to violence'

He also accused the media of double standards in its treatment of the EFF versus its treatment of Gordhan and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

On Monday, Berger said Malema and the EFF had taken upon themselves to decide when the harassment and intimidation against journalists would stop.

"My lady, that can't be right," Berger said.

"The relief which is sought is the relief which stops the attacks, hate speech and harassment against journalists," Berger said.

'You can't make speeches like that'

Berger quoted Malema as saying that once journalists take sides, they are politicians and must be treated like politicians.

He also told the court that what Malema told his supporters was that "they must cut off the head of the enemy".

He said Malema told his followers: "Let's attack fighters. Where we meet the enemy, we must crush the enemy. We must protect the revolution at all costs."

Berger said what Malema was saying to his followers was that journalists who write in a particular way will not be treated as journalists, but will be treated as politicians.

"You can't make speeches like that. You can't say cut off the head of the enemy and then the other part of the speech you say, 'Don't kill them'. People can hear selectively," Berger said.

"There is a call to violence against journalists who are writing negatively about the EFF.

"Mr Malema and EFF are aware that what they are saying has consequences."

The matter continues.

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