Journalist Karima Brown on Wednesday said she would lay complaints with the police and the Electoral Commission (IEC) against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) after Julius Malema sparked an outpouring of abuse against her from his supporters.
“I am going to lay an official complaint at the IEC. And the police,” Brown said.
She suggested the EFF was in breach of the Electoral Code of Conduct, enshrined in the Electoral Act, which barred registered parties from using language that could provoke violence and enjoined them to respect the role of the media before, during and after elections.
“We need to ask the IEC how such a party can be on the ballot box. It threatens journalists. It encourages its supporters to make rape threats and sexual assault threats. It wants to dictate what I can do as a journalist,” she said.
“It harasses women. It physically attacks us. How is such a party allowed to be part of a constitutional democracy? That is the fundamental question.”
Parties who breach the code risk having their registration for the elections revoked. The spectre of the EFF being barred for the polls was raised by media freedom activists last year when Malema launched sustained attacks on journalists, among them Brown, News24 editor Adriaan Basson and Tiso Blackstar reporter Ranjeni Munusamy.
It prompted Brown to lay charges with the police, the South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) and to lay a complaint with the Equality Court.
The latest attack on Brown began when Malema took to Twitter to accuse her of sending “moles” to a campaign meeting the EFF was holding with “elders” in Ekurhuleni’s Ward 6.
Brown had tried to post a brief of the event to colleagues at eNCA, where she hosts a weekly show on politics, but mistakenly sent it to the EFF’s WhatsApp group.
In retaliation, Malema published Brown’s mobile phone number, which led to EFF supporters unleashing a stream of vitriol, wherein they allegedly threatened Brown with rape and made racial attacks against her.
“We are not playing here. We are dealing with racists… step aside or we will crush your prolapsed vagina,” read one, which was accompanied by laughing emojis. Another called her an “Indian whore”.
Sanef demanded an apology, but EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi issued a statement branding Brown an “ANC operative”.
“The EFF has long held a position that Karima Brown is not a journalist, but an openly admitted ANC operative. All journalists who hold legitimate positions, and whose integrity has always been consistent with journalistic ethics, should care about what role Karima Brown plays in the media,” he said.
Brown said the EFF was harassing women in general and seeking to dictate for whom she worked as a journalist and how she went about her work. Its conduct carried overtones of fascism, she added.
“How do they live up to the bill of rights? That is my question. Today it is me. Tomorrow it is person X. This is how fascism starts,” she added.
Sanef said the latest attacks on Brown were part of a wider assault on media freedom and called on Malema to desist.
It said Brown’s message was simply a standard news room alert to colleagues, asking them to keep a watching brief on an event.
This was stressed by eNCA political editor Vuyo Mvoko in a message to the EFF WhatsApp group, where he also made plain that Brown hosted a regular programme on politics on the news channel on Sunday mornings.
“She has a team that helps her put the show together. Throughout the week, the team keeps an eye on everything that happens on the political front,” he said.
“A watching brief it was and nothing more. That it was mistakenly posted here doesn’t change the facts and doesn’t justify the unwarranted and cowardly attacks on her.”
– African News Agency (ANA)