The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has declined a request to meet with the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) to discuss threats and intimidation leveled at the media by its leader, Julius Malema.
''While we acknowledge Malema's right to criticise the media, we remain gravely concerned about the threats and intimidation of individual journalists – often women – who report critically on the EFF, and the chilling effect this may have in newsrooms.
''A meeting with the EFF leadership was the first step in Sanef's response to these threats and we believed was absolutely essential before the elections,'' Sanef Chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said in a statement on Tuesday.
The request comes after Malema launched an attack on the media which he dubbed certain journalists ''the defense force of President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pravin Gordhan" outside the venue hosting the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
"One of the journalists singled out by Malema was physically accosted while shopping and others faced abuse on social media," Mahlase explained.
EFF Secretary General Godrich Gardee on Tuesday wrote to Sanef claiming that the political party was fully booked with engagements up to the 2019 elections, despite spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi allegedly telling two news radio as well as television platforms that the political party would meet with Sanef.
While Sanef acknowledges Malema’s right to criticize the media, the forum remains concerned about the intimidation and singling out of journalists, and thus will seek legal advice, it said.
"Sanef will continue to seek legal advice on remedies available to us to protect journalists from bullying and intimidation by politicians.
"Our Council meeting resolved that journalists should feel free to leave press conferences or rallies by political parties if they feel under threat or intimidated," Mahlase added.
Sanef has further called on all supporters of media freedom to join us in speaking out against the continued bullying and intimidation of journalists.
Several attempts to reach out to the EFF for comment went unanswered.