It did not have to come to this
The South African National Editors' Forum, of which Sowetan editors are members, has taken an extraordinary step of taking a political party to the Equality Court.
Sanef took this unusual measure against the EFF, the country's third-largest political party, following several cases of intimidation and bullying targeted at journalists, especially on social media.
The forum argues that the EFF, through its public utterances against certain journalists, has "enabled an environment in which intimidation, harassment, threats and/ or assaults on journalists" have been "tolerated and in fact encouraged, creating a chilling effect on freedom of expression".
It rejects the EFF's defence that the party does not know and has no control over those of its supporters who insult and threaten reporters deemed to be reporting negatively on the party.
Sanef says it is the responsibility of the EFF and its leaders to publicly condemn those who harass and intimidate journalists in its name.
It is now up to the Equality Court to decide on whether the EFF can be held liable for the actions of those who profess to be its supporters on social media.
While we fully understand the frustration that have led to Sanef taking this route, we wish that the matter did not have to get to this point.
Although tensions between journalists and political parties should be something that is to be expected if both sides were doing their respective jobs, it is never ideal to have these escalate to the point where they have to be resolved by the courts.
As media, we are not in opposition to any party. Our role is to report on what they do and say, and not to fight them.
It is for this reason that, despite the court process, we hope that Sanef and the EFF can still engage in the kind of dialogue that would put an end to threats against journalists and address any of the issues the party has with individual practitioners and the media in general.
The EFF, like any other organisation or individual in society, has every right to criticise the media and individual reporters. Journalists too should be free to criticise the EFF. But should be done in an environment of mutual respect.
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