Johannesburg - The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said on Wednesday it has lodged a complaint with the Equality Court against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for intimidating and threatening journalists.
''Sanef has approached the court in defence of media freedom and seeking protection of journalists against sustained intimidation and threats against journalists by EFF leader Julius Malema and his supporters,'' the organisation said in a statement.
''We did not take this decision to institute legal action against the EFF lightly. We believe in the South African way of resolving disputes around a table, but Sanef has been unsuccessful in seeking a meeting with Mr Malema and other EFF leaders about the remarks which we view as blatant hate speech.
"Although the party agreed to meet with several private companies lately, the EFF has declined to meet Sanef before the general elections scheduled for May 2019. This has forced Sanef to approach the courts.''
Female reporters, in particular, have borne the brunt of an avalanche of insults, especially on social media, Sanef said.
''These are the journalists who have reported critically on the EFF have been called “w****s”, “witches”, “b*****s” and “c***”, and calls have been made for them to be raped and attacked by staunch EFF supporters. Some of the people purporting to be EFF members have threatened to find their home addresses. Further calls have been made by EFF supporters for the killing of certain journalists. The EFF leadership’s silence on this barrage of hatred has been deafening.''
Last month, Malema told EFF supporters outside Brooklyn police station in Pretoria that his party would do a ''roll call of journalists'' at its events to ensure that reporters from certain media houses did not attend.
He singled out Tiso Blackstar's Sunday Times newspaper and warned its journalists to not attend EFF events. He had, a few days earlier, launched attacks against journalists at Tiso Blackstar and online publication Daily Maverick, urging EFF supporters to ''deal with them decisively".
Journalist Karima Brown laid criminal charges against an EFF member whom she accused of sending a message to her, calling her ''EFF enemy number one.''
In another case, SABC editor Thandeka Qgubule and veteran journalist Anton Harber have filed a complaint against the EFF over claims by the far-left party that they were apartheid-era spies working under Stratcom, an apartheid-era agency that ran disinformation campaigns.
Sanef wants the Equality Court to interdict Malema and the EFF from intimidating, harassing, threatening or assaulting any journalist, publishing personal information of any journalist and encouraging the intimidation and the harassment of journalists by EFF supporters on social media and other public platforms.
The organisation further wants Malema to publicly denounce the harassment of journalists, apologise and call on his supporters to stop intimidating and threatening members of the media.
''We remain gravely concerned about the weaponisation of social media and the chilling effect this may have on a generation of journalists who would not want to open themselves up to this level of abuse, by reporting on any EFF related matters.
"Through his actions, Mr Malema and his leadership have made targets of journalists whom they have named and against whom they have called for action. The EFF has created an environment enabling the harassment, intimidation and endangerment of journalists in South Africa,'' Sanef said.
African News Agency/ANA