Many people – including some supposedly intelligent ones – do not believe it is possible to slander or libel a journalist. That’s because, to these people, journalists are somehow subhuman and not entitled to the same rights or legal protections as anyone else.
A lot of this animosity stems from the fact that the journalists who are libelled are often fearless tellers of the truth, or those who pen criticisms of hypocrisy.
So, we welcome the move by two senior scribes – journalism professor Anton Harber and SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule – to file court papers against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
The party of Julius Malema accused the two of being part of the apartheid-era “dirty tricks” operation known as Stratcom (Strategic Communications). Effectively, the EFF said Harber and Gqubule were agents for the National Party’s security apparatus and the pair are demanding that the EFF retract their accusations, apologise and pay R500 000 in damages.
We also welcome the news that the two have approached the police and defence departments with a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to reveal any information they have on them being linked to Stratcom, or whether they spied for the erstwhile security forces.
We believe that the EFF’s statements were a deliberate attempt to smear and silence professional journalists, and intimidate others.
But by making spurious allegations such as these, the EFF, wittingly or unwittingly, plays into the hands of those who do not want the real truth revealed about the apartheid era.
While Malema and company want to chase phantoms, the ugly realities of the past – including the most recent allegations of sexual abuse by National Party leaders of boys on Bird Island near Port Elizabeth – still remain.
Political sideshows should not divert us from seeking the truth.