Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) says attacks on journalists can lead to serious societal ramifications and should never be allowed.
The organisation has been accepted as friends of the court in the matter of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) over the harassment of journalists.
Sanef has approached the Equality Court sitting in the High Court in Pretoria.
The case relates to Julius Malema‘s speech to his supporters outside the Zondo Commission in Johannesburg in November 2018.
It also involves statements made by Malema and party supporters on social media which they say incite violence.
Journalists – Ranjeni Munsamy, Adriaan Basson, Pauli van Wyk, Max du Preez and Barry Bateman – are the other five complainants in the matter.
“The ramifications of permitting such conduct by the respondents or endorsing such conduct by the respondents has broader societal ramifications that stifling media reports engaged in subject matter that the respondents as one of many political parties not the sole political party takes issue with. We submit that once fear, intimidation and harassment is permitted to continue the guise of robust political expression, the free distribution of diverse and contested information suffers,” says Media Monitoring Africa’s Counsel Shaista Kazee.
The EFF has argued for litigation to be struck off the roll. The EFF has argued that Sanef holds no powers to initiate these proceedings.
Counsel for the EFF, advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi says the forum’s constitution clearly states that this was not the correct way.
“If Sanef wanted to litigate, its constitution made it clear what it should do. It should call a meeting of the forum and at that meeting of the forum, the mandate to litigate will be taken. What it cannot is what it did, which is to ask MANCOM to take a decision that is not empowered to take under its constitution.”