TIMELINE | A week of spats between the EFF and the media
The conflict between the media and Julius Malema intensified last week after the EFF leader addressed a crowd of his supporters outside the venue where the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture is sitting. A lot has happened since then.
The Mail and Guardian reported that Malema's gripe with the media stemmed from his perception that certain members of the media are championing the agendas of public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Speaking to EFF supporters outside the building, Malema named journalists who should be dealt with "decisively."
He blasted media houses for not asking Gordhan and the president about scandals in which the two were allegedly implicated.
"These people I am mentioning by name, you must engage with in a civilised manner and not violently," said Malema.
The following day, the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) expressed concern over "Malema's attack on journalists."
In a statement, Sanef pleaded with politicians to discuss worrying issues with editors who employ journalists, instead of "singling out specific journalists."
After heated social media exchanges between journos and members of the EFF, Sanef resolved to set up a meeting with the party's leaders.
According to TimesLIVE, the forum was especially anxious about threats to female reporters.
Sanef said: "Criticism is part of democracy but hate speech and sexually abusive threats online and bullying are out of order and can endanger the lives of journalists."
Tweeting to The Sunday Times, Malema wrote: "I respectfully and peacefully ask that you stop sending any of your journalists to interview me or to cover any of my events."
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
The tweet fuelled a debate about freedom of the press, making the meeting with the EFF even more urgent for Sanef.
In an interview with the SABC, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi denied that the organisation had called for attacks on journalists.
Ndlozi said: "We do not support anybody that will intimidate journalists physically, that will harass them physically."
The EFF believes fair, balanced reporting must be a priority for media houses.
"Look at The Sunday Times yesterday, every single opinion piece by those people was on us, not reporting fairly, not trying to cover some balanced story but making a view," explained Ndlozi.
After several attempts to have a sit-down with the red berets, EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee made it clear to Sanef that a meeting would not be possible any time soon.
TimesLIVE reported that in a letter to Sanef, Gardee wrote that the EFF's schedule was too "tight" to accommodate the editors.
The party was "fully booked with pre-arranged meetings and activities up until the elections" in May 2019."
Sanef said it would continue exploring ways to protect journalists from intimidation by political leaders.
"While we acknowledge Malema's right to criticise the media, we remain gravely concerned about the threats and intimidation of individual journalists."