EFF’s harassment of journalist ‘chilling’

Staff Writer | May 31, 2019
The South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) has warned of the implications of Julius Malema’s social media post to his more than 2.4 million followers to ‘go for the kill’ and to ‘hit hard’.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema did not identify anyone by name, but his post appeared in the wake of investigative journalist Pauli van Wyk’s ‘hard-hitting stories’ on the EFF and VBS Bank.

The timing of this ‘veiled threat’ was ‘the most recent chilling case of harassment’ of Van Wyk, said SANEF Executive Director Kate Skinner.

This, Skinner said, highlighted the significance of the progress being made in SANEF’s legal case in the Equality Court initiated to protect journalists against harassment and abuse.

Skinner said: ‘SANEF lodged a complaint in the Equality Court late last year against the Economic Freedom Fighters following a barrage of abusive and dangerous threats against journalists. SANEF approached the court in defence of media freedom and seeking the protection of journalists.’

The court papers called for:

- The interdicting of the EFF leadership from intimidating, harassing, threatening and assaulting journalists;

- Interdicting the EFF leadership from publishing personal information of journalists on public platforms or on social media or by other means;

- Interdicting the EFF leadership from expressly or tacitly endorsing the intimidation, harassment, threats or assaults by supporters or followers, whether on public platforms or on social media or by other means;

- Directing the EFF to publicly denounce the harassment and abuse of journalists; and

- Directing the EFF to publish an apology to the specific journalists listed as complainants in the court papers and directing the EFF to publicly acknowledge the constitutionally protected role played by journalists.

After initial delays with the case, SANEF said it had been informed that Judge Wendy Hughes would hear the matter and that a timeline – with the EFF filing its answering papers by 12 June, SANEF filing replying papers by 27 June, and hearing being held from 5 to 7 August – had been agreed to.

Skinner said SANEF regarded progress in this case ‘as critical given the ongoing harassment of journalists’.

‘In this regard we note the most recent chilling case of harassment of investigative journalist, Pauli van Wyk in the wake of her hard-hitting stories on the EFF and VBS Bank. We note a tweet by Julius Malema communicated to his more than 2.4m followers. He didn’t elaborate or name any individuals, but the timing pointed to a veiled threat. He called for his followers to “go for the kill” and to “hit hard”.’

Skinner said SANEF believed the Equality Court case ‘will finally hold the EFF leadership to account in its sustained abuse of journalists – and thus its sustained abuse of our hard-won constitutional principles of freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of the media’.


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