Malema is just asking for the media 'to be honest', court hears

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EFF leader Julius Malema (File, News24)
EFF leader Julius Malema (File, News24)

All Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema asked for during his November 2018 speech outside the state capture commission of inquiry was that journalists should be honest, the Equality Court sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Monday. 

The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and five journalists have taken on the EFF in court over the intimidation of journalists. 

The five journalists are News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Tiso Blackstar's associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, Eyewitness News senior journalist Barry Bateman and co-editor of Vrye Weekblad Max du Preez. 

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, for Malema and the EFF, had argued on Monday that what the applicant argues was that they are involved in politics, but Malema does not intend to engage them in politics. 

"What he says is that 'I was making political speech, criticising Mr [Pravin] Gordhan, criticising Mr [Cryril] Ramaphosa for pretending as if they were not part of the nine wasted years. I criticised the journalists because they were sugarcoating the truth'." 

In November 2018, Malema identified specific journalists whom he accused of protecting Gordhan. 

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

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

At the time, 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, the Daily Maverick, Scorpio, and e.tv which ask us about our wives, about our relatives, about anyone we know, until they ask Pravin these questions in a live interview."

But on Monday, Ngcukaitobi argued that that speech should be taken as a whole and not in selective portions. 

"The dominant meaning that one obtains from reading Mr Malema's… or listening to Mr Malema's words is that what he is asking for and he puts this powerfully that 'all I ask for the media is to be honest'," Ngcukaitobi said. 

"As a fact there is no way any reasonable person can take those words literally, it is metaphorical political speech," Ngcukaitobi argued.

He said in the same speech, Malema had said he was not telling people to "kill anyone". 

"Once a reasonable reader is asked to read in contexts, the dominant reading is that what he [Malema] is asking for is for the media to be honest." 

He said Munusamy stated in her affidavit that she texted Malema after his speech. 

"She knew that the meaning must be an objective meaning, and she knew that what Mr Malema was asking for was bona fide." 

ALSO READ: EFF supporters are contemplating acts of violence against the media, court hears

Advocate Daniel Berger SC, representing Sanef and the journalists, also argued on Monday that the applicants had brought the application to protect themselves and their colleagues from the "abuse" they had endured.

Berger said the EFF had created an environment which had become particularly "toxic and hostile" for journalists.

He also said Malema and the EFF had taken it 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.

Following Monday's proceedings, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told reporters covering the matter that the applicants' arguments were "very, very weak".

He added that what Sanef and the five journalists wanted was to "arrest our arms, and put them at the back, tie them with a rope, put a big tape on our mouth and kill our ability to be critical of journalists".  

"They [applicants] are here to push and pull the punches and also tell us to respond when they have literally descended to the political arena." 

He accused Basson and Van Wyk, among others, of openly campaigning for President Cyril Ramaphosa and Gordhan. 

"You shouldn't treat these individuals [Gordhan and Ramaphosa] as if they are not part of the nine wasted years," Ndlozi said. 

The matter continues on Tuesday. 

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