'The life of a journalist is not easy' - Judge on Sanef vs BLF

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)

Johannesburg - In granting the interdict against Black First Land First (BLF), Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen dismissed its argument that their protests against journalists were peaceful. 

Van der Westhuizen handed down judgment in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg at noon on Friday, following an urgent application by Sanef, heard on Thursday.

BLF were interdicted from harassing and threatening the journalists personally and via social media.

This after more than a dozen journalists came under attack following what, they alleged in court papers, was their coverage of state capture and the Guptas.

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Last week, BLF protested at the home of Business Day editor-at-large Peter Bruce.

The judge said the incident demonstrated that BLF do not intend to protest peacefully.

"A gathering where participants are armed with sticks and golf clubs, defacing private property, invading the property and turning off the water supply, assault on the person of fellow journalists who show support for their colleagues targeted, hardly constitutes a peaceful protest," he said.

Van der Westhuizen said such a gathering had the attributes of a protest to harass, harm, intimidate and threaten.

He said the intention to follow journalists, even to a place of worship, was a clear invasion of privacy and liberty.

'Seldom is a word of gratitude expressed'

Van der Westhuizen said if the claims by BLF - that their actions were targeting the "racist and biased reporting of journalists" - were true, the protest would have been targeted at the offices of journalists, instead of their homes.

"Such hounding impedes upon the liberty of the journalist. The private home or place of worship is the sanctity of the journalist," said the judge.

Van der Westhuizen found that the tweets targeting journalists were intended to harm and harass.

He said words such as "askari and settler" spoke to harm.

"It is emotive. The claim on part of the respondents that an innocent understanding of such language is to be ascribed, is irrational, illogical and without merit. Such language is clearly a reference to the historical context."

He said the applicants have a clear right to protection.

"The life of a journalist is not easy. The profession of a journalist, and in particular that of an investigative journalist is seldom appreciated. More than often it is criticised.

"The public often frowns upon the reporting of a journalist. His or her actions are continuously subjected to criticism or alleged biasness or sensation. Seldom is a word of gratitude expressed."

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