Media fight for access to Krejcir hearing

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krejcir oct 19 INLSA Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir. File photo by Cara Viereckl.

Johannesburg - The remarkable life story of Radovan Krejcir is of interest to the public. Since setting foot in South Africa he has, among other things, become involved in the shady world of strip club owners… with some of these people now dead.

The media are thus entitled to know what goes on behind the closed doors of the Refugee Appeal Board when it reconsiders his refugee status.

This was part of the opening remarks before Pretoria High Court Judge Hans Fabricius on behalf of Independent Newspapers, Mail & Guardian and Media24 in their bid to have access to the board’s hearing.

Krejcir came to South Africa via the Seychelles in 2007. He applied for refugee status here, but the application was turned down. Krejcir appealed this refusal, but the appeal proceedings had been delayed for more than 18 months now pending this application by the three media houses to be allowed to attend the Refugee Appeal Board hearing.

The board earlier refused reporters permission to attend the hearing, stating that in terms of its rules, all refugee hearings are closed to outsiders, including the media. But Independent Newspapers and the other two media houses feel that details which are due to be revealed in Krejcir’s refugee appeal should be in the public domain.

They want the court to set aside the refusal by the Refugee Appeal Board to exclude the media, and to rule that reporters be allowed to attend these hearings.

Advocate Alfred Cockerill SC, acting for the media, told Judge Fabricius that this was by no means an application that all refugee hearings should be open to the media.

“We say that the rules under the Refugee Act give the [board] a discretion to decide whether to allow reporters to attend and report on these appeal hearings… Where there is secrecy, there can be no accountability. The public is unable to know why a particular decision was made and whether the decision was justifiable.

“Openness is a necessary element of accountability,” he said.

Krejcir, the Refugee Appeal Board and the minister of home affairs are opposing this application.

Advocate Gilbert Marcus SC, on behalf of the respondents, said asylum proceedings had to remain confidential, as they dealt with vulnerable people, many of whom had to flee their countries.

The hearing continues.

The Star

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