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Sat Feb 28 08:54:43 SAST 2015

Mac Maharaj gags Mail & Guardian

HARRIET MCLEA | 18 November, 2011 01:06
Mac Maharaj
Image by: Trevor Samson

The Mail & Guardian was forced to black out sections of an investigative report it intended to publish today after receiving threats of a criminal prosecution from lawyers representing presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj.

Editor Nic Dawes said the paper had planned to publish information from a National Prosecuting Authority Section 28 interview with Maharaj.

Dawes tweeted yesterday: "We wanted to bring you details of an investigation into Mac Maharaj that raises disturbing questions. We're forbidden on pain of jail time."

"Just like the #secrecybill the NPA Act punishes disclosure of S28 records with up to 15 years, even if you aim to reveal serious wrongdoing," another tweet read.

In a TV interview last night, Dawes said: "It seems very clear to us that Mac Maharaj lied to the Scorpions."

Most of the article by investigative reporters Sam Sole and Stefaans Brümmer was censored after the newspaper's lawyers advised it to withhold publication.

The newspaper will request the National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane to allow it to publish the material in next week's edition. But should that be turned down, it would "test these bad laws" in court, said Dawes.

Maharaj's lawyer's letter made reference to British tabloid News of the World and the consequences of "the use of unlawfully and illegally obtained information".

But Dawes maintained that the newspaper had not committed any crime.

"We believe that we have every right to publish the information, which raises serious questions about the conduct of a man who speaks on behalf of the president," said Dawes.

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