SAHRC calls on BLF to cease intimidation, harassment of journalists

Andile Mngxitama expresses his views during a discussion about 'state capture'. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)
Andile Mngxitama expresses his views during a discussion about 'state capture'. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)

Pretoria - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called on Andile Mngxitama and his organisation Black First Land First (BLF) to immediately cease intimidating and harassing journalists.

This comes after BLF started targeting journalists at their homes and places of worship.

"A free press is a cornerstone of our constitutional democracy. Any attempt to threaten or intimidate the media is an attack on our democracy and is a violation of our Constitution," SAHRC spokesperson Gail Smith said in a statement.

"Further, section 15 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, belief and opinion. As such, threats by BLF to protest at places of worship of members of the media, is an infringement of this right.

"The commission therefore calls on the BLF group to immediately cease intimidating and harassing journalists and further calls on this group, and on all who reside within the republic, to respect and protect the media's right to operate without fear or favour."

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Urgent interdict

On Tuesday, the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) applied for an urgent interdict against Mngxitama and his organisation. Sanef has accused the group of using intimidation as a means to quash reports on state capture allegations.

The application, led by Sanef chairperson and News24 political editor Mahlatse Gallens was filed in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. It also seeks to protect the constitutional right to freedom of the press.

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Last week, editor at large of the Tiso Blackstar media group Peter Bruce was threatened and intimidated at his home in Parkview‚ Johannesburg‚ by a group of 20 BLF members.

Business Day editor Tim Cohen was assaulted after he arrived at Bruce's house and tried taking a photo of the protesters, who had also vandalised Bruce's house.

On the BLF website, an article was also published targeting and threatening several other journalists, including Barry Bateman, Sam Sole, News24 editor in chief Adriaan Basson and Stephen Grootes.

The African National Congress has also since condemned the actions by BLF in the strongest possible terms, calling on law enforcement to investigate the matter and act where there are justifiable grounds to do so.

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