Sanef condemns EFF after Malema's tweet results in insults and rape threats against veteran journalist Karima Brown

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Karima Brown on The Fix  Pictures:supplied
Karima Brown on The Fix Pictures:supplied

The EFF and its top leadership has come under fire after veteran journalist Karima Brown was verbally abused and received threatening messages after her cellphone number was published on Twitter.

This comes after Brown seemingly posted an editorial brief in an EFF media WhatsApp group after the party posted an invitation to an EFF "Breakfast With The Elderly" function scheduled for Wednesday.

Brown responded: "Keep an eye out for this. Who are these elders. Are they all male and how are they chosen. Keep watching brief (sic)." She later deleted the message. 

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

EFF leader Julius Malema later tweeted a screenshot of the message, which included Brown's cellphone number, saying: "Karima Brown is sending moles to our breakfast with the elders tomorrow, she incidentally sends the message to the @EFFSouthAfrica media WhatsApp group and deleted it immediately."

This ignited a barrage of abusive responses from EFF members, accusing Brown of being a spy and calling her a whore and a bitch, among other insults and threats.

Since then, Brown has been the target of abusive messages and even rape threats. "Step aside or we will crush your prolapsed vagina," one threat, forwarded by Brown, states.

READ: SACP slams intimidation, threats against journalists

Brown responded that she would not be intimidated or scared by the attacks on her by the party, its leaders or supporters.

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) on Wednesday condemned what it termed "the systemic, abusive and cruel social media attack levelled against Talk Show Host and veteran journalist Karima Brown over the last 24 hours by Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema and his supporters".

'Indian whore and bitch'

"Malema published the cellphone number of Brown and, shortly thereafter, his supporters began a barrage of insults against her - calling her, among other derogatory names, 'an Indian whore and bitch' and levelling insults, threatening her life, and accusing her of allegedly sending moles to spy on them.

"This after Brown [accidentally] posted a message on an EFF WhatsApp group. The message was meant for a journalist group instead."

Sanef called on the EFF leadership to "stop with this vicious attack on the media and allow journalists to do their work without fear and intimidation".

Sanef said the attacks on women in media in particular and the abuse levelled against them is contrary to the spirit of wanting to protect women in a country where violence against women has reached pandemic levels.

"Only yesterday, the EFF stood tall and condemned the abuse levelled against artist Babes Wodumo.

"We also remind Malema that when his personal details were published on Twitter - Sanef condemned it, just as we condemn his actions to put out Brown's telephone number."

Sanef said it further noted that the unwarranted attacks on Brown were similar to the previous attacks by the EFF and its supporters on women journalists - a matter that Sanef has placed before the Equality Court.

"If the EFF leadership has evidence and/or concerns about Brown or any other member of the media they must deal with this in the correct forum including the Broadcasting Complaints Commission for Radio and Television and online or the Press Ombudsman/Council for Print and Online.

"From a Sanef position there is empirical evidence to show that when senior party leaders and politicians muzzle journalists, their supporters follow in their footsteps."

EFF defends its position

The EFF has, however, defended its position in a statement on Wednesday.

"The EFF has long held a position that Karima Brown is not a journalist, but an openly admitted ANC operative. All journalists who hold legitimate positions, and whose integrity has always been consistent with journalistic ethics, should care about what role Karima Brown plays in the media," said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

"Upon accidentally dropping what looks like briefing notes in an EFF Media Statements WhatsApp Group, we have since exposed those notes to the public.

"As a result, she has argued that those were editorial notes for eNCA journalists. We know for a fact that Karima Brown holds no editorial positions, not even an assignment editor's position at the eNCA. We urge the eNCA to explain in what capacity, she would be briefing journalists who are going on assignments to cover EFF meetings."

The EFF said it mentioned her in name "because we do not want to tarnish all other journalists by making generalisations".

"Our argument is with her, because we believe she holds no position, anywhere, to be deploying journalists to cover any news.

"If Karima Brown is no official editor, and yet the eNCA allows her to hold such power, they must say so. This will make matters easy for us, as we will, from henceforth, deal with her and not the officially designated editors," said the EFF.

eNCA political editor, Vuyo Mvoko, responded on the EFF WhatsApp group that Brown has a show called The Fix which airs on Sunday mornings on the channel. 

"It's a political show that looks at the body politic. She has a team that helps her put the show together. Throughout the week, the team keeps an eye on everything that happens on the political font. 

"A watching brief it was and nothing more. That it was mistakenly posted here doesn't change the facts and doesn't justify the unwarranted and cowardly attacks on her," he said.  

'Attack on media freedom'

Sanef said the attack on Brown is "a clear example of the attack on media freedom".

"Our purpose as a non-profit association is to advance ethical and quality journalism - a critical component of media freedom and access to information as enshrined in our Constitution.

"We call on Julius Malema and the entire EFF leadership to apologise to Karima Brown.

"Sanef will continue to champion the cause of independent journalism, to support journalists under threat in our own country and abroad, and to support the deepening of our democracy."

Sanef said it had lodged a complaint in the Equality Court late in 2018 against the EFF following a "barrage of abusive and dangerous threats" against journalists in South Africa.

"Sanef approached the court in defence of media freedom and seeking protection of journalists against sustained intimidation and threats against journalists by Julius Malema and his supporters.

"Sanef is concerned that attacks against journalists are escalating and calls on political parties and those elected to lead not to use journalists as pawns in their political infighting and/ or to cover up corruption. In the run-up to the elections, highly contested hotspots often pose a threat to the safety of journalists.

"We appeal to the [Electoral Commission of SA] to monitor these transgressions against the media and educate political parties on the Electoral Act that allows for media to operate in a free and fair environment."

Sanef said it had rolled out elections workshops in all nine provinces focusing on elections coverage, ethics and how to deal with disinformation campaigns against them.

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