Press council concerned about threats against journalists

Julius Malema is seen leaving the Pretoria High Court during a lunch break in the case of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in its matter against the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), 6 August 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Julius Malema is seen leaving the Pretoria High Court during a lunch break in the case of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in its matter against the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), 6 August 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The council heard 533 complaints in 2019, up from 499 the previous year.

The Press Council of South Africa says it is concerned about threats levelled at journalists and has urged members of the public to rather use the appropriate platform to resolve disputes.

“Threats of violence through social media are intended to undermine media freedom and aggrieved members of the public and politicians should use existing channels to lodge complaints,” the Press Council of South Africa noted at its annual general meeting on Wednesday.

The council’s executive director, Latiefa Mobara, urged members of the public to use its processes to resolve disputes with the media.

“In recent weeks, we have seen tweets about senior and seasoned journalists who are allegedly part of a cabal,” Mobara said in a statement on Thursday.

The council heard 533 complaints, up from 499 the previous year, had been received in 2018.

Of those 533 complaints, Press Ombudsman Pippa Green (in her four months in the position) had issued seven rulings, which are available on the council’s website, the regulatory body explained.

“She found in favour of complainants in three matters, and three in favour of the media. The last ruling was partially in favour of the complainant but most of his complaints were dismissed.

“Of concern to both the public advocate and the press ombud is the increase in the number of complaints where the complaints were about publications’ failures to provide a right of reply to subjects of reportage. This was a matter to be addressed with the media through training workshops over the next financial year,” council said.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) recently faced off with the EFF in the Equality Court, sitting in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, to interdict the party from intimidating, harassing and assaulting journalists.

Sanef’s bid was joined by five journalists – News24 editor Adriaan Basson, Daily Maverick journalist Pauli van Wyk, Tiso Blackstar associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, Eyewitness News senior journalist Barry Bateman and Vrye Weekblad co-editor Max du Preez.

This came after Malema, during a speech outside the Zondo commission, identified specific journalists whom he accused of protecting Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan who was testifying at the state capture inquiry in November 2018.

This resulted in journalists being intimidated and attacked by alleged EFF supporters.

Sanef claimed these attacks were motivated by Malema’s utterances.

The council also announced the press code had been translated into isiZulu and Afrikaans to improve access to its processes.

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