An urgent interdict was granted to the South African Editors Forum (SANEF) by Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen, with judgment handed down at midday today.

A key feature of the judgment was a directive for the BLF to remove racist and violent references from its website within 12 hours.

SANEF had applied for an urgent interdict on 4 July 2017 against BLF and its leader Mngxitama after threats of violence and intimation were carried out by BLF supporters outside the house of former editor of the Business Day, Peter Bruce, and an assault on journalist Karima Brown. Related to these acts of intimidation, the BLF released a list of white journalists on a “target list”, in addition to naming several black journalists who were perceived to be a threat to the agenda of the organisation. What many of these journalists have in common is their reporting on corruption and state capture.

In a statement from Mahlatse Gallens, chairperson of SANEF, earlier this week, she said that, “this is a very difficult time for journalists” and that “campaigns have been orchestrated to try and silence journalists and it is important that we start taking action. We are here to uphold the rule of law and to protect the Constitution”.

Gallens, speaking outside the courthouse immediately after the judgment this afternoon, said that while it was unfortunate that race was used as a feature of the BLF campaign to deflect from the real issues confronting South Africa, journalists will not be deterred from exercising their constitutional rights to media freedom.

Gallens also urged the police to act against BLF demonstrators from further intimidation and harassment of journalists. However, almost immediately after the granting of the order, Mngxtima and members of the BLF continued their threats and racial slurs against journalists. This contravention of the order and effective contempt of the courts requires serious legal sanction against Mngxtima and members of BLF.

Threats to media freedom and the Rule of Law must be vigorously resisted and the victory of SANEF must be lauded and supported from all quarters.

By Ms Zohra Dawood: Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity 

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