Equality Court dismisses Sanef's hate speech case against Julius Malema

EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.

The Equality Court on Thursday dismissed an application by the South African National Editors Forum and five journalists against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and its leader Julius Malema.

Sanef and the journalists had asked the court to declare statements that Malema made outside the state capture commission in November last year as hate speech.

The journalists are Adriaan Basson, Pauli van Wyk, Max du Preez, Ranjeni Munusamy and Barry Bateman.

In his address outside the commission last year, Malema criticised journalists who did not ask public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, who was on the day testifying  before the commission, the questions that he, Malema, wanted to hear.

He likened the media to the apartheid government’s “Stratcom” disinformation campaign.

Malema told his supporters: “Where we meet the enemy, we must crush the enemy. On Facebook, Twitter, social media, be there, guard the revolution. When the enemy raises its ugly head, don’t hit the head, cut off the head.”

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

The matter was argued before the Equality Court, sitting in the Pretoria high court, in August.

The journalists and Sanef were seeking an interdict preventing the publication of the personal information of these five journalists, as well as an interdict preventing Malema from endorsing the intimidation, harassment and threatening of journalists.

The EFF leader said he often talked to journalists and disagreed with their views.

“I don’t have to kill them. I want them to live long to see the success of the EFF. All we are asking from the media: be honest,” Malema added.

Sanef and the journalists had accused Malema and the EFF of creating a “toxic” working environment for reporters.

However Malema and EFF lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi argued before the Equality Court that Malema’s comments did not constitute hate speech in any way, but Sanef and the journalists’ lawyer, Daniel Berger SC, differed.

In a statement following the judgment, Sanef said they were studying the judgment and would make further decisions about the continuation of the legal process.

“Sanef is disappointed that the ruling was not in our favour, but maintain we were fully justified to have approached the courts after numerous instances of threats and intimidation were issued by the EFF against journalists. We also wish to emphasise that the recourse to the courts was a last resort after efforts to meet the EFF failed,” the forum said.

Sanef said they would continue with their attempts to engage the EFF on the matter.

In a statement, the EFF welcomed the judgment and said the application had sought to portray the EFF as violating media freedom and the rights of journalists to dignity and freedom of speech.

“The Equality Court correctly dismissed them. The judgment stated that there was no evidence of any hate speech or incitement of hatred to journalists,” the statement from the EFF said.

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