Journalist Karima Brown has spoken out on the abuse she has experienced since EFF leader Julius Malema shared her cellphone number in a tweet on Tuesday night.
Brown said she had been “threatened with rape, with sexual assault, with violence”.
“I was called a ‘whore’ and told people will deal with me. That I must leave the country and ‘f**k off back to India’,” she continued.
Brown said many of those who had threatened her were “clearly EFF members”, adding that she did, however, suspect some of the threats were sent by bots (fake accounts) or by those tweeting under a false identity or from multiple accounts (sometimes known as “sockpuppets”).
The journalist, who currently hosts both eNCA’s The Fix and 702 and Cape Talk’s The Karima Brown show as well as being a producer at eNCA, shared some of the worst threats she’d received with The Citizen.
They included one saying she must “step aside or we will crush your prolapsed vagina,” one calling her “sfebe” [Zulu for bitch], one which appeared to be from an EFF supporter telling fellow EFF supporters to “go attack” her, one calling her a “coloured bitch” and a particularly long, gruesome message that included the author threatening to “peel that skin off ur pink bodies” [sic].
Asked how much responsibility Malema must take for the treatment she has received, Brown said the EFF leader was “directly accountable”.
Brown noted that this was not the first time Malema and EFF supporters had threatened journalists, adding that those threatened – such as Pauli van Wyk and Thandeka Gqubule – are often women.
She believes the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should look into what she sees as the party’s violation of the Electoral Act, highlighting a section in which it says that “every registered party and every candidate must respect the role of the media before, during and after an election”, and must “take reasonable steps to ensure that journalists are not subjected to harassment, intimidation, hazard, threat or physical assault” by “representatives” and “supporters”.
She will be interviewing a representative of the IEC on her show on 702 and Cape Talk on Wednesday night.
“Why is a party which threatens woman journalists being allowed to contest elections?” she asked, adding that the IEC should investigate if the EFF is “fit to be a political party and if are they functioning in the constitutional parameters of a party”.
Brown shared her notes on what she hopes to discuss tonight with The Citizen.
“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 so as a journalist. Where I can work. Who I can work with. It harasses women. It physically attacks us. How is such a party allowed to be part of a constitutional democracy?” she asks. “That’s the fundamental question.”
“And they are never arrested. Fined or face any consequences for their actions. How do they promote democracy. How do they live up to the bill of rights. That’s my question. Today it’s me. Tomorrow it’s person x. This is how fascism starts,” she added.
Brown also reacted to allegations in a statement from the EFF that she was an “ANC operative”, and to claims from both Malema and the party that she was “not a journalist”.
“They are trying to prevent me from doing my job as a journalist, they started by calling me a politician, now I’m a spy,” she said, adding that she believed the EFF’s statement was “absolute nonsense”.
“They are involved in creating fake news,” she added.
Brown felt the EFF’s behaviour was “an attack on my person, my profession, and my ability to do my job, as well as an attack on our democratic state, on our constitution”.
“They don’t want to have their narrative challenged, and they respond to this like fascists do,” she added.
“I don’t regard them a legit political party, they are funded with money by a known gangster (Brown is referring to Carnilinx co-owner and alleged cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti). Their leaders are all embroiled in financial scandals,” she said.
Brown said she was undeterred by what she saw as the party’s attempts to silence her.
“I don’t feel threatened by a bunch of thugs and I won’t ask for permission to do my work,” she said.
“Malema is a false construct – a fascist populist and a bully, not a political leader.
“His tweet was a command to his supporters that I was the target for the evening, and they haven’t stopped.
“It’s not about me as an individual. Today it’s me, tomorrow it will be someone else. In the past, it has been Gqubule, Van Wyk, and others. They behave with impunity.”
Brown wants institutions such as the Equality Court and the Human Rights Commission to act against the party.
“I have laid charges against EFF supporters before and the police have done nothing,” she said.
She said the failure of relevant organisations to hold the party accountable for its actions was an indication of the “shrinking of the democratic state in South Africa”.
“That worries me as a journalist and as a citizen,” she added.
Malema tweeted on Tuesday evening that “Karima Brown is sending moles to our breakfast with the elders tomorrow”, referring to an event publicised by the party.
Malema added that Brown had sent a message to the EFF media WhatsApp group accidentally before deleting it.
As evidence, he posted the message he says Brown sent and then deleted, along with her phone number, which has been blurred out in the screenshot below:
But rather than “sending moles” to EFF events, Brown told The Citizen she was “basically doing [her] job” as a producer at eNCA, part of which is to discuss stories and their angles with journalists.
She added that the EFF’s allegations show a “complete misunderstanding how the media works”, adding that she often briefed to eNCA journalists as part of her job on the Jane Dutton show, which she described as “normal production work”.
The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has called on Malema to apologise, which he has refused to do.
eNCA has since released a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms threats of violence and verbal attacks by supporters of the EFF including its leader [Malema] against current affairs host [Brown]”.
READ MORE: EFF claims Karima Brown is no journalist
“In particular, we take extreme exception to her life being threatened, threats of rape; her telephone number being disseminated and the derogatory names she is being called,” the statement says.
“We stand in full agreement with the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) that this is also a hostile attack on media freedom in this country, particularly in a highly charged pre-election political climate in which all media houses are operating.
“We concur with Sanef that party leader Malema owes Ms. Brown an apology and call on the EFF to immediately cease this intimidation and bullying,” the statement continues.