EFF refuses to meet SANEF over attacks on journalists
27 November 2018
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has declined a request from the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) for a meeting to discuss threats and intimidation levelled against journalists in the wake of inflammatory statements made by EFF leader Julius Malema.
SANEF requested a meeting with Malema and his executives following calls by him to EFF supporters to "deal decisively" with journalists, whose names he mentioned from the stage while addressing a crowd outside the Zondo Commission's hearings.
One of the journalists singled out by Malema was physically accosted while shopping and others faced abuse on social media.
EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee wrote to Sanef on Tuesday, saying the party's schedule was "very tight and fully booked with pre-arranged meetings and activities up until the elections date". The election is expected to take place in May 2019.
This comes after EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told at least two programmes on radio and national television that the EFF would be prepared to meet with Sanef.
After SANEF's announcement on Saturday that it would seek an audience with the EFF, Malema tweeted that he was prepared to meet "on condition you don't bring racist things like this white young boy called Adriaan Basson".
Basson is SANEF's treasurer and would have formed part of the SANEF delegation to meet the EFF.
While we acknowledge Malema's right to criticise the media, we remain gravely concerned about the threats and intimidation of individual journalists – often women – who report critically on the EFF, and the chilling effect this may have in newsrooms. A meeting with the EFF leadership was the first step in SANEF's response to these threats and we believed was absolutely essential before the elections.
SANEF will continue to seek legal advice on remedies available to us to protect journalists from bullying and intimidation by politicians. Our Council meeting resolved that journalists should feel free to leave press conferences or rallies by political parties if they feel under threat or intimidated. Further, we encourage all journalists to show solidarity and support colleagues under threat by also leaving press conferences and rallies.
We further note that the EFF has decided to ban particular media organisations, such as the Sunday Times from their press conferences. Previously we met with the EFF when they banned ANN7 to implore them to reverse the ban. We again condemn the decision to ban Sunday Times reporters.
The gravity of these threats to our profession is highlighted by the Human Rights Council, that noted concern at "instances in which political leaders, public officials and/or authorities denigrate, intimidate or threaten the media, including individual journalists, which increases the risk of threats and violence against journalists and undermines public trust in the credibility of journalism".
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 2017 where its member states (including South Africa) unanimously condemned "all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers, such as torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and arbitrary detention, as well as intimidation, threats and harassment, including through attacks on, or the forced closure of, their offices and media outlets, in both conflict and non-conflict situations".
SANEF calls on all supporters of media freedom to join us in speaking out against the continued bullying and intimidation of journalists.
Issued by Kate Skinner, SANEF Executive Director, 27 November 2018