The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) filed an urgent court application on Tuesday against Black First Land First (BLF) and its founder‚ Andile Mngxitama.
Sanef wants the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to interdict BLF and Mngxitama from harassing‚ intimidating‚ assaulting and threatening 11 senior journalists‚ editors and commentators who were targeted for reporting about “state capture”.
“This follows a protest at the private house of Tiso Blackstar editor at large Peter Bruce last Thursday and the intimidation and harassment of Business Day editor Tim Cohen and political commentator Karima Brown at Bruce’s house‚” said a statement by Sanef.
“BLF has since threatened more editors and journalists with similar protests at their private homes and have referred to Brown‚ HuffPost editor at large Ferial Haffajee and Talk Radio 702 presenter Eusebius McKaiser as ‘askaris’.
“The other co-applicants are amaBhungane partner Sam Sole‚ News24 editor Adriaan Basson‚ Talk Radio 702 presenter Stephen Grootes‚ independent journalist Max du Preez‚ Eyewitness News (EWN) editor Katy Katopodis and EWN reporter Barry Bateman.”
Sanef chair Mahlatse Gallens said in an affidavit to court that the harassment of journalists was “part and parcel” of an orchestrated campaign.
“Each one of the journalists are senior professionals who in their area of reporting expertise have reported to the nation‚ objectively and independently on the political state of the South African economy and the corruption and maladministration consequent upon the alleged capturing of the national economy to further the interests of an elite few.”
Gallens said journalists were being targeted to keep corruption and state capture allegations out of the public domain.
“The concerns around state capture are rife. Not a day goes by that we as South Africans are not faced with the pervasive impact of its corruption and maladministration. It is important that free and independent journalism is brought to bear on these reports because the media is also a catalyst of peace‚ dialogue and understanding‚ which will create the framework for the public to digest these reports within the bounds of the rule of law.
If we are perceived in any way as falsifying information because we are being threatened‚ public debate becomes fractured‚ polarised and I daresay‚ volatile as a consequence of segments of society perceiving themselves as being misled‚” Gallens stated.
The court was asked to interdict BLF and Mngxitama from gathering outside the homes of the journalists‚ threatening them with violence on social media and inciting harm against them in public interviews.
The application has been served on BLF and Mngxitama‚ who can file answering affidavits before the matter is heard by the court.