One man’s freedom of expression is another woman’s hate speech

By Pinky Khoabane


Verashni Pillay, the editor-in-chief of Huffington Post South Africa thought she could publish an article offending white men in a democracy where freedom of speech is protected in the Constitution – and get away with it.

Days after Zapiro had depicted black men rape a black woman and was lauded by free-speech advocates, she too thought it would be fine for a woman calling for the withdrawal of the right of white men to vote in order to level the socio-economic and political playing field. The woman was calling for redress and redistribution of wealth which are enshrined in our Constitution anyway but she was suggesting that we go further and curtail the power these men have.

Pillay was wrong.

She has now been forced to resign following a scathing ruling by the press ombudsman who found the article calling for the voting rights of white men to be stripped to have violated the press code.

In fact the ombudsman found it discriminatory and constituted hate speech. Hate speech? The blog has now been withdrawn and so one comments without the full article but the snippets I’ve read have not convinced me of hate speech.

The ombud’s full ruling is here

The article written by one Shelley Garland, “an activist and feminist” asked if it “could be time to deny white men the franchise” due to their toxic influence of white men on the progressive cause. She cited  Brexit and Donald Trump as some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause saying white men should be disenfranchised for a period of about 20 – 30 years. As it turned out, Garland was actually a man who wanted to expose Huffington Post South Africa’s lax editorial systems. White men went berserk and got even more excited when Huffington Post was forced to withdraw the blog on the basis that they couldn’t locate the author.

The entire story of how this all played out is very funny. While Huffington Post was bragging on social media about the number of hits their site was getting as a result of this article, a reader was trying to establish the identity of the author and was “interested” in their previous work when the author swiftly shut-down their Twitter account. The Twitteratti’s started being suspicious when they saw the low level of activity of this author. In a world where our existence is measured by the number of tweets and followers you have, the author was forced to retreat. Put it down to the power of social media. In days gone by, the article could have easily stood as a legitimate piece of work by a real person.

Pillay shut down the blog once they too couldn’t verify the author.

In debating the issue, many have stuck on the issue of the author being a hoax and the fact that she’s not who she said she was. But does a pseudonym (even one created maliciously as Shelley was) discredit completely the issues she raised? Yes, the writer didn’t mean anything they wrote but there may have been aspects which counted for debate. Even if it was a load of hogwash – surely the Constitution allows for the freedom to air and publish it. I hold no brief for Pillay but she can only be guilty of not checking the identity of the author and the factual inaccuracies which have been cited by the complainants in the matter. The media write inaccurate stories all the time – the ombudsman knows this.

Thankfully the Press Council Executive Director Joe Thloloe is appealing the Retief’s ruling.




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  1. Exactly PK, pure hypocrisy.
    They say, ‘you cannot teach an old new tricks’. People like Verashnie never smell the coffee and realise that they have to do things differently.
    There is only one thing we can do.
    Wish them good luck that one day they get a rude awakening and see the light.

  2. All WMC captured mainstream media houses are experiencing a decline in viewership, listnership and readership because people are not stupid.
    You cannot feed them Propaganda forever. Sooner rather than later, they will reject your lies and the intervention by the new minister of communication will help the organisation (SABC) to recover or else we can start writing it’s (SABC) obituary now.

  3. The freedom of speech in South Africa is for only those toeing the WMC line and Verashnie Pillay should know that better.
    If she doesn’t know that freedom of speech only applies to WMC, she must ask ANN7 & TNA newspaper Journalists who were viciously attacked by the WMC favoured former Finance Minister, Mr Pravin Gordhan and no ‘freedom of speech advocates’ like the rigt2know came to their rescue. They crossed the line and the WMC was not impressed.
    Racist Zapiro can say any nonsense he wants about black leaders as long as he is pushing the WMC agenda, he will be protected in the pretext of having a freedom of speech. In this case Verashnie also crossed the line and angered the WMC.
    What did she expect? To be treated with kid gloves after her “behaviour”? No ways! No one angers the WMC and get away with it.
    Mr Hlaudi Motswening also knows the wrath of WMC very well. Now they (WMC) are blaming the decline in SABC viewership on him but, the fact of the matter is that the SABC capture by WMC is the cause of the decline in viewership there.
    I was watching the Hlaudi’s press conference last were he (Hlaudi) was supported by a large number of artists but the SABC only showed the viewers Hlaudi’s speech only and made look like he (Hlaudi) was a lone ranger in his endeavours to rightfully transform the SABC to show the true demographics of South Africa.
    I will advise Verashnie to join the struggle towards radical economic transformation of the country or be a WMC stooge or else, she is on her own.I

    1. Dear Mzi

      The interesting thing about Verashni is that she, like all WMC media representatives, denounces the existence of white monopoly – what a harsh way to be shown the truth. The fact that she gladly “respected and accepted the Press Ombudsman” in her resignation letter but went to Joe Thloloe to establish if she could appeal the ruling tells you she was pushed.



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