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Editors’ forum to seek meeting with EFF over threats to journalists

24 November 2018 - 17:00 By TimesLIVE
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) is to seek an urgent meeting with the leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to discuss threats against journalists.

This follows threats made mainly to female journalists, by EFF leader Julius Malema and other EFF leaders on social media and at various political rallies, the forum said. 

“Earlier this week, Malema named several journalists and called on EFF supporters to ‘deal with them decisively’. Following his comments, we have seen some of the journalists physically accosted and abused on social media,” Sanef said.

It said one journalist had been verbally threatened outside the venue of the state capture inquiry, where Malema had made some of these threats. In another incident, a senior editor had been accosted by three men who had shouted her surname and mocked her while she was out shopping.

“A series of steps will be urgently undertaken to stop unacceptable, inflammatory remarks by Malema and other EFF leaders. These incidents are just one example of a series of abusive comments and threats by politicians to journalists and cannot be tolerated.

“There is a real danger as they filter beyond cyberspace and become physical threats. 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. They also have a chilling effect in newsrooms, with specifically younger journalists feeling fearful and intimidated and thus withdrawing from critical reporting on politicians,” Sanef said.

Sanef also noted what it referred to as the bleeding of cash under the reign of former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the latest statements by the SABC board that they could reach day zero by March 2019, indicating they would not be able to pay salaries if there was no urgent intervention.

“As we welcome the new communications minister Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Sanef reiterates the fact that the SABC cannot be allowed to collapse and government has a moral and public responsibility to financially rescue the public broadcaster.

“Sanef thus urges government to rescue the SABC financially - whatever it takes. Of particular concern is the impact of retrenchments on editorial staff. SANEF once again calls that any cuts made should not compromise the SABC's public service function and language diversity - especially in regard to news gathering and current affairs ahead of our critical 2019 elections.”