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Protect journos or risk having compliant media, court told

This was among the submissions made on Monday by counsel for the South African National Editors' Forum and five journalists who turned to the court to stop the abuse.

EFF leader Julius Malema addresses a Freedom Day rally in Seshego outside Polokwane. Picture: EFF.

PRETORIA - The Equality Court has heard that journalists should be protected from hate speech or run the risk of creating a compliant media.

This was among the submissions made on Monday by counsel for the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and five journalists who turned to the court to stop the abuse.

The journalists were asking the court to interdict EFF leader Julius Malema and the party from intimidating and harassing journalists and prohibit them from publishing their personal information and to denounce such conduct by their supporters.

The complaints followed several instances where Malema had identified journalists by name at public gatherings and on social media and told supporters to deal with them.

Advocate Daniel Burger for Sanef said that journalists ought to be protected.

"We have to protect the journalists from hate speech and we have to protect the journalists from harassment because if you don't, it's going to be open season on journalists that is hurtful, harmful, incites harm, promotes hatred or is calculated to induce submission. A compliant press is the last thing we need in this country."

The EFF told the Equality Court that its leader Julius Malema had never called for journalists to be harmed, however, he has been critical of them.

Sanef argued that Malema had on several occasions used violent language to incite party members to harass and intimidate journalists who were critical of the party.

One such incident was during a speech outside the state capture commission of inquiry.

Advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi said this was an incorrect interpretation of what Malema was saying.

"The dominant interpretation that any reasonable reader would gain from it is that it is a message critical of journalists but it is certainly not a message that journalists must be killed and that taking the approach that our learned friends have adopted is an extreme form of artificiality."

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