‘A win for SANEF could be a blow to freedom of speech’

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Senior fellow at the Institute for Race Relations, Helen Zille, says a win for the South African Editor’s Forum (SANEF) against the EFF at the Equality Court could be a blow to freedom of speech.

SANEF is locked in a court battle with the EFF, against what it says is sustained intimidation against journalists by EFF leader Julius Malema and his supporters.

Zille claims she is defending the constitution – and suggests that journalists not take politicians to court over sentiments which may be construed as hurtful.

“I am not defending the EFF, I am defending the constitution. It defined hate speech very clearly. The statement is only hate speech if it contains a threat of violence. So saying something hurtful or hateful is not unconstitutional, it is defended by freedom of speech laws unless it is accompanied by a threat of violence. So, we have to work out the difference in terms of the law, and I don’t think the SANEF case meets that standard at all and in fact, curb freedom of expression and media freedom because media freedom depends on freedom of expression.”

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