File picture - Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir with his lawyer after an appearance at the Pretoria Magistrate Court. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria - The Pretoria High Court is expected to rule on December 7 on whether members of the media will be allowed to attend the Refugees Appeal Board hearing regarding the future status of controversial Czechoslovakian businessman Radovan Krejcir in South Africa.

Independent Newspapers, Media 24 and the Mail & Guardian asked the court to set aside the decision by the board not to allow the media access to the hearing.

The refugee board hearing was scheduled to take place in May last year, but stood down pending this application by the media.

Krejcir’s application for asylum in South Africa was initially turned down and he subsequently appealed against this decision.

The board refused the media access to the appeal hearing.

It stated that the Refugees Act and rules imposed secrecy in appeal hearings.

It was argued on behalf of the media houses that this act gave the board a discretion to decide whether to allow the media to attend and report on its hearings.

The board and the minister of home affairs, on the other hand, said there was no such discretion and that all these hearings were off limits to the media.

Alfred Cockerill sc, on behalf of the media, argued that Krejcir had become a public figure in South Africa and that it was in the public interest for the details of his appeal hearing to be made public. He said the right to freedom of expression in this case outweighed Krejcir’s right to confidentiality.

Both Krejcir and the department were adamant that in terms of international and local law, the rights of refugees were protected as they were a vulnerable group and that no exceptions could be made.

Judge Hans Fabricius yesterday indicated that he would try and deliver judgment by December 7.

Pretoria News Weekend