The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has urged journalists to leave press conferences or rallies held by political parties if they feel threatened or intimidated.
This follows the launch of several scathing attacks against the media by Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.
“Sanef will continue to seek legal advice on remedies available to us to protect journalists from bullying and intimidation by politicians,” the forum’s chair Mahlatse Mahlase added in a statement released on Monday.
The decision was taken after the forum’s council meeting shortly after the EFF party declined a request to meet with the editors to discuss threats and intimidation levelled at the media.
Tensions between the media and the EFF reached new heights last week Tuesday after Malema addressed a crowd gathered outside the venue of the commission of inquiry into state capture, in Parktown, Johannesburg, where Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was testifying.
Malema instructed the group outside the venue to prepare for war against Gordhan, he further named, one by one, journalists that he believed were part of what he dubbed “the Ramaphosa defence force”.
In response to Malema’s claims, Sanef on Saturday vowed to take steps, adding that it had agreed to urgently seek a meeting with the leadership of the EFF.
Malema responded to this request, in a tweet, saying he was only prepared to meet them on condition that they not bring News24’s editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson, who he labelled as “racist”.
I’m prepared to meet you on condition you don’t bring racist things like this white young boy called @AdriaanBasson
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) November 24, 2018
On Sunday, Malema again continued his attack, banning the Sunday Times and its reporters from covering his events and also calling the paper’s owners racist.
He was responding to the publication’s editorial, titled: ‘We must find the courage to stand up to the racist bully Julius Malema’.
The editorial was prompted by his comments outside the inquiry, which Sanef said had led to some of the journalists being accosted in public and abused on social media.
One journalist was verbally threatened outside the venue of the inquiry, where Malema made some of the threats. And in another incident, a senior editor was accosted by three men who shouted her surname and mocked her while she was out shopping.
The intimidation of journalists is not new to Malema.
In 2010 Malema, who was president of the ANC Youth League at the time, referred to a BBC journalist as a “bastard” and a “bloody agent” during a press conference at Luthuli House. The journalist was subsequently kicked out of the presser.
In August 2016 during a press conference held at the Tshwane IEC results centre, the EFF banned Gupta-owned ANN7 from its events.
This resulted in the broadcaster’s journalists facing several incidents of intimidation as well as verbal and physical threats while reporting out on the field.
Sanef on Tuesday said it had noted the latest ban on the Sunday Times.
I don’t need and not scared of you and your racist owners. I respectfully and peacefully ask that you stop sending any of your journalists to interview me or to cover any of my events.
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) November 25, 2018
“Previously we met with the EFF when they banned ANN7 to implore them to reverse the ban. We again condemn the decision to ban Sunday Times reporters,” Mahlase said
In the party’s response on its decision to decline Sanef’s request for a meeting, EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee said the political party was fully booked with engagements until the elections in May 2019.
This was despite its spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi allegedly telling two news radio as well as television platforms that the political party would meet with the forum.
Meanwhile, Sanef has called on all supporters of media freedom to join the forum in speaking out against the continued bullying and intimidation of journalists.
The EFF was not available for comment. — News24