Variation made to Moti Group's gag order on amaBhungane stories

04 June 2023 - 15:04
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Zunaid Moti is a South African businessman, investor, and entrepreneur and owner of the Sandton-based Moti Group.
Zunaid Moti is a South African businessman, investor, and entrepreneur and owner of the Sandton-based Moti Group.
Image: James Oatway

The legal dispute between the Moti Group and amaBhungane is not about “gagging” media but about preventing journalists from reporting on stolen information. 

This was the response by Moti Group founder Zunaid Moti after the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) condemned the Moti Group for seeking an urgent interdict against the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism on Thursday night.

The media organisation was ordered to hand over “stolen” documents and restrained from further publication of articles about the Moti Group.

This came after Moti had laid a criminal complaint against amaBhungane journalists Micah Reddy and Dewald van Rensburg and its managing partner, Sam Sole. 

Sanef said the attempt to “unreasonably gag” the media trampled on the right of journalists to do their work and the public's right to know.

On Saturday, a revised order was made after an agreement was reached, setting aside the order to hand over the documents but requiring the document trove be preserved until the matter is heard in the Johannesburg high court for argument.

However the order barring the journalism organisation from publishing any articles based on the documents, until October, still stands.

In a statement on Sunday, Moti maintained the documents were stolen by a former employee who leaked them to third parties and media in an attempt to tarnish the group’s reputation.

“The Moti Group’s legal complaint against amaBhungane is not about 'gagging' media — it is about the boundaries of media rights, and holding specific individuals and journalists accountable for actions that are unethical at best, and criminal at worst,” it said. 

AmaBhungane said it was “seriously concerned about the damage to source protection that such a handover would entail".

“While we are disappointed that the gag order issued against us — unjustifiably and abusively in our view — remains in place for now, we will fight this in due course and believe today’s variation was necessary to protect our sources.”

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