EFF, like journalists, also abused by faceless trolls, court hears

Tweets by EFF leader Julius Malema came under scrutiny in court with his lawyer stating that any tweets liked or retweeted by Malema did not necessarily mean that he endorsed them.
Tweets by EFF leader Julius Malema came under scrutiny in court with his lawyer stating that any tweets liked or retweeted by Malema did not necessarily mean that he endorsed them.
Image: Alaister Russell

The EFF has been used as a punching bag by "faceless trolls" and abused online just like journalists have been, the Equality Court, sitting at the high court in Pretoria, heard on Tuesday.

The court heard arguments over the alleged intimidation of journalists, which stemmed from a speech EFF leader Julius Malema made outside the state capture commission in November 2018. Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan was at the time testifying before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

Malema accused specific journalists of protecting Gordhan and said he regarded them as the apartheid government's "Stratcom" agents.

He also urged his supporters to "attack" and to "occupy every house, every space in society", including social media platforms.

The matter was taken to court by the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and five journalists - News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Tiso Blackstar's associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, Eyewitness News senior journalist Barry Bateman and co-editor of Vrye Weekblad Max du Preez.

Sanef and the journalists want the court to declare that these statements are hate speech. They also want Malema and the EFF to apologise for the utterances.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC for the EFF told the court on Tuesday that "trolls from faceless and nameless Twitter accounts" were harassing journalists and were also abusive towards the EFF.

Ngcukaitobi said these trolls should be summoned to court through their Twitter handles, and further contended that Sanef did not have the  judicial standing to bring the application before the court.

It is seeking to have the application dismissed.

"To try and silence the EFF serves no one," said Ngcukaitobi.

Tweets by Malema also came under scrutiny in court with Ngcukaitobi stating that any tweets liked or retweeted by Malema did not necessarily mean that he endorsed them. 

Ncukaitobi said there was a difference between insults and hate speech, and that some tweets by Malema were in fact insults and not hate speech.

The hearing continues.


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