Legal journalism is alive and well in South Africa

A “totally overwhelmed” Philip de Bruin, senior assistant editor of the Beeld, received the Webber Wentzel Bowens (WWB) Legal Journalist of the Year award for the second year running on


De Bruin, who won in the print division, shares his title with Carte Blanche’s Victoria Cullinan, a first-time winner who said she was very thankful for the accolade.

They received their awards at a breakfast at WWB’s head office in Illovo, Johannesburg. WWB senior partner Ed Southey said WWB continued to be “delighted” by the response from journalists as the competition’s fourth year came to a close. About 100 submissions were made from 25 entrants, 18 from the print media and Southey said he was heartened by the growing tendency towards analysis.

“Legal journalism is alive and well in South Africa,” he said.

Guest speaker, Win Trengove, SC, said courts often displayed a split opinion regarding the media—“waxing lyrical” about the institution and its role in democracy, and being “less effusive” when they spoke of those who carry out the profession.

Trengove said this “disdain” could perhaps explain why several rulings indicated that journalists did not enjoy greater constitutional protection than other citizens.
This was an opinion with which he disagreed, saying it was “outdated”.

Trengove said the Bill of Rights contained in the constitution gave everyone freedom of expression which was not limited to the right to speak, but also to receive and disseminate information.

However, the bill also contained a clause which dealt specifically with “freedom of the press and media”.

“Their freedom is protected, not because they are a superior class, but because it is in the interests of all of us that they be free.”

The media acted as the “eyes and ears” of society, as a marketplace of ideas and a public watchdog bent on ferreting out corruption, dishonesty and graft.

The freedom enjoyed by the media was also not limited to the publication of what society regarded as responsible, tasteful and inoffensive, but also that which shocked, offended and disturbed.

Runners up in the competition were Annelise Burgess, of SABC 3’s Special Assignment (electronic media), and Bonile Ngqiyaza, of Business Day (print media), and special mention was made of Myrle

Vanderstraeten of Gleason Publication’s Without Prejudice and Zelda Venter of the Pretoria News in the print media section.

Odette Quesnel of Carte Blanche and Anna-Maria Lombard of Special Assignment also received special mention. - Sapa

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