The South African National Editors’ Forum(SANEF) is deeply concerned by the fact that lawyers for the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) have sent two letters of demand to GroundUp threatening to lay criminal charges against the publication and freelance journalist, Raymond Joseph. Further, the NLC has demanded that GroundUp remove 16 stories from its website, many of which expose incompetence allegations of corruption, involving multi-million-rand projects funded by the NLC.
SANEF understands that the NLC lawyers are claiming that Joseph and GroundUp have contravened regulation 8 of the Lotteries Act by revealing details of both grant applications and awarded grants. SANEF’s understanding, however, is that this regulation pertains to so-called “distributing agencies” (a mechanism through which the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund adjudicates grant applications) – GroundUp and Joseph are not distributing agencies. This same regulation has also been used by the NLC to deny several requests filed under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
SANEF believes that the threat to file criminal charges against a journalist and GroundUp is deeply problematic. Firstly, it appears that these threats are being used to harass and intimidate GroundUp and Mr Joseph to stop their reporting on malfeasance and corruption at the NLC. Secondly, we believe that the specific regulation quoted by the lawyers doesn’t pertain to either GroundUP or Mr Joseph as they are not “distributing agents”. Thirdly, we believe that if this regulation is, in fact, applicable to the media, it is unconstitutional. Regulation 8 stands in direct contradiction of our constitutional principles of freedom of expression and access to information.
SANEF believes that lottery funds are public funds. There must be transparency around their distribution. Further, the NLC is a public institution that is an agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. We thus call on Trade and Industry Minister, Ebrahim Patel to urgently investigate this matter. SANEF will be seeking a meeting with him to discuss this matter further.
Note for Editors: SANEF is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research, education and training programmes.
For more information, contact:
Katy Katopodis – Acting SANEF Chairperson, (082) 805-7022
Mary Papayya – Acting SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor 0825713334
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape SANEF Convenor, 0780419528
Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor 083 582 1734
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – 082 926 6404