08 March 2019
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) met with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on 6 March to discuss issues of mutual interest including in particular the issues of human rights, the role of the media and South Africa’s 2019 elections.
As a top priority SANEF raised the systemic, abusive social media attacks levelled against journalists including talk show host and veteran journalist Karima Brown by Economic Freedom Front (EFF) leader Julius Malema and his supporters. Malema published the cell phone number of Brown and shortly thereafter his supporters began a barrage of insults against her. Further, Malema claimed that Brown was linked to intelligence operatives. SANEF has called on Malema and the entire leadership of the EFF to apologise.
SANEF discussed its court case lodged late last year in the Equality Court against the EFF. The case followed an earlier barrage of abusive and dangerous threats against journalists – particularly women journalists. SANEF approached the court in defense of media freedom and seeking protection of journalists against sustained intimidation and threats by Malema and his supporters.
The SAHRC promised to support SANEF in its fight to protect journalists. Promises included:
- Assessing the most effective way to support SANEF as regards its court case;
- Supporting SANEF’s election programme and strengthening the safety provisions included;
- Looking at collective ways that SANEF, the Electoral Commission and Gender Commission can coordinate support to journalists and hold political parties, their leaders and followers to account in terms of protecting the safety of journalists.
Further, the meeting discussed a number of other important issues including South Africa’s Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and ways to strengthen and align this legislation to the African model law on access to information. SANEF would like to see our legislation being strengthened to ensure “proactive disclosure” of information i.e. ensuring that public bodies proactively distribute and disseminate information.
Also, the meeting discussed the issue of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights guidelines to access to information and elections and the importance of South Africa ensuring that our legislation and regulations are aligned. SANEF stated that little to no progress had been made in that regard – and this despite the importance of these guidelines for our upcoming 8 May elections. Also, we raised the fact that the new Party Funding Bill is not in line with the guidelines.
Finally, SANEF raised the issue of the importance of universal access to the internet and civil society’s 7-point plan to ensure “universal, free access to the internet in South Africa”. The SAHRC confirmed its support for this critical project. Further discussions will be held on a practical way forward.
SANEF, a number of civil society media organisations including Media Monitoring Africa, and the SAHRC agreed to build closer communication ties to work on the projects outlined above – and to support one another to protect the constitutional principles of freedom of the media, freedom of expression and access to information.
For more information contact:
Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson, 083 399 2852
Izak Minnaar – SANEF Council member
Katy Katopodis – SANEF Deputy Chairperson 082 805 7022
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director 082 926 6404
Mary Papayya – Chair: SANEF Media Freedom 082 379 4957
Sam Mkokeli – SANEF Media Freedom 0820842051