Sanef 'disappointed' after it loses court bid against EFF

The EFF has won the  case brought against it by the South African National Editors Forum in the Equality Court. (Ethan Van Diemen, News24, file)
The EFF has won the case brought against it by the South African National Editors Forum in the Equality Court. (Ethan Van Diemen, News24, file)

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has expressed its disappointment after it lost its case against the EFF in the Equality Court, sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

On Thursday morning, the Equality Court ruled against Sanef and five journalists in an application to interdict the EFF from intimidating, harassing and assaulting journalists.

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

The court heard arguments from both parties over two days.

"Sanef is disappointed that the ruling was not in our favour, but maintain we were fully justified to have approached the courts after numerous instances of threats and intimidation were issued by the EFF against journalists," the forum said.

It said it would study the contents of the judgment before deciding on the way forward.

"We also wish to emphasise that the recourse to the courts was a last resort after efforts to meet the EFF failed."

The forum said it would continue its attempts to engage with the EFF and all other political parties on "mutually acceptable rules of engagement".

"We recently hosted a symposium on this topic. The EFF was invited but didn't attend the event."

The EFF welcomed the ruling, saying the applicants sought to portray the party as one that violated media freedom and journalists' rights to dignity and freedom of speech.

"The Equality Court correctly dismissed them," the party said.

"We must therefore reiterate that journalists who take a side, using journalism as a platform to pursue the propaganda interests of politicians, must never be regarded as journalists."

The party also accused Sanef and the journalists of making the EFF their "personal project, seeking to discredit it, whilst promoting [President Cyril] Ramaphosa and [Public Enterprises Minister Pravin] Gordhan". 

In November 2018, Malema identified specific journalists he accused of protecting Gordhan, who was testifying at the state capture inquiry at the time.

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

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."

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

The court ruled that the complainants failed to establish that being a journalist qualifies for the protection under section 10 and 11 of the Eqaulity Act, directly as an 'analogous' ground.

"The respondents' conduct does not qualify as hate speech due to the absence of hatred and incitement of hatred of journalists as a whole. A constitutionality complaint reading of the Equality Act necessitates a restrictive interpretation and consequently favours not limiting the freedom of speech, save in the clearest of cases, and this is not a case.

"Therefore, there is no factual and legal causation such that the respondents may be held liable for breaching the Equality Act," read part of the judgement. 

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