The South African media have set such dangerous precedents that they find themselves in the position of having to defend what they’ve allowed to go unchallenged, when it happens to people they dislike.
The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) is in court today to hear the ruling in its case against Black First Land First (BLF). SANEF was in court yesterday to ask for an urgent interdict against BLF which recently picketed outside editor Peter Bruce’s house. The lobby group accuses Bruce of writing “fake news and racist slander”. “Black First Land First (BLF) respects freedom of expression and the independence of the media. However, BLF will not tolerate racism, slander, fake news and the covering up of white corruption under the guise of journalism”. The stand-off was sparked by an article which Bruce wrote in which he called several ministers idiots. BLF says this is racist and it will not tolerate any racism.
The editors’ forum wants BLF to stop harassing and intimidating journalists. It is alleged that while outside Bruce’s house, the lobby group assaulted Karima Brown and another editor, Tim Cohen. The view of SANEF is that BLF has embarked on this campaign as a means of intimidating them so that they don’t write about the Gupta corruption and state capture.
Intimidation or Picketing
Part of what is being argued is whether gathering outside someone’s house is intimidation or picketing which is a lawful and constitutionally protected form of protest. BLF argues that groups have been allowed to picket outside the president’s and the Gupta’s homes.
SANEF argues that BLF should have picketed outside the offices of the journalists with whom they disagree and not their homes. Speaking at the ANC Policy Conference, Jackson Mthembu lashed at BLF’s protest action saying there were avenues which the group could have used. He cited the press ombudsman and right-of-reply as means by which BLF could have responded to the article in question.
SANEF’s RECENT Responses to Media Freedom issues
When former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan harangued an ANN7 reporter in a press conference, this was the response of commercial media and nothing came from SANEF. These are just some of the headlines…
When former editor of Citizen Steve Motale was unlawfully fired and this is a court ruling which was upheld when Citizen appealed, SANEF was nowhere to protect him.
When EFF threatened to attack ANN7 reporters, there was a muted response by SANEF. It never went to court for example, to interdict the EFF.
Remember when the media published former Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s medical records when these were confidential and private documents only because they disliked her for being an “Aids denialist”?
The ruling in the case between BLF and SANEF will be handed down in a couple of minutes, 12H00.