EFF vs Sanef: EFF hails Equality Court ruling
Johannesburg - The EFF welcomed Thursday's judgment in which the Equality Court sitting in Pretoria dismissed the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) application to gag party leader Julius Malema and the EFF from bad-mouthing journalists.
“Journalists who take a side using journalism as a platform to pursue the propaganda interests of politicians, must never be regarded as journalists. When they descend to the arena, they must be treated as having taken sides and no longer acting in the professional interests of journalism," the party said in a statement.
They added that “from all accounts, it is clear that these journalists, together with Sanef, have made the EFF their personal project, seeking to discredit it, whilst promoting Ramaphosa and Gordhan.”
In dismissing the application, Judge Daisy Molefe said journalism is not an inherent and immutable quality. It is a career choice for which an individual opts and it is thus falls outside the jurisdiction of the Equality Court.
Sanef and journalists Barry Bateman from Eyewitness News, Pauli van Wyk of the Daily Maverick, Adriaan Basson from News24, veteran journalist Max du Preez as well as Ranjeni Munusamy, claimed Malema was engaging in hate speech.
They turned to the court in a bid to protect them and other journalists from the abuse and harassment they say they have endured by virtue as their work as journalists.
The statements they objected to formed part of a speech made by Malema outside the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on November 20 last year, as well as statements made in general.
The applicants wanted Malema and his party to publicly denounce the harassment and abuse of the media and to apologise to those which they had intimidated.
But Judge Molefe said their complaints fell outside the scope of the Equality Act as journalism was a chosen career path.
“In my view journalism is not an inherent and immutable quality. It is a career choice for which an individual opts. Unlike race, sex or gender, a career choice cannot be what defines one’s affiliation as per what is envisaged by the Equality Act. Nor can it constitute a protectable interest.”
She remarked that the idea that journalists deserve special protection as a class of belonging to their chosen profession, was earlier rejected by former Constitutional Judge Edwin Cameron. She said he regarded this notion as not only unconvincing, but dangerous as well.
She, however, added: “It is incumbent on all organs of state, including the judiciary, to not only have regard to, but to take positive steps to protect the safety and independence of journalists.”
The judge said she noted that the complainants' court papers are riddled with instances where they complained about statements made against them by Malema and the EFF.
“Some of the statements are indeed hurtful, distasteful and offensive, but they are not excluded from protection. In my view, the objections as framed by the complainants, strictly speaking, falls outside the jurisdiction of the Equality Court.”
Sanef said it will be studying the judgment before it will make further decisions about the continuation of the legal process.
It expressed its disappointed at the outcome, but said it was fully justified to have approached the courts after numerous instances of threats and intimidation by the EFF against journalists.