The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) congratulates Prof. Anton Harber and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki for their well-deserved victory in their long battle for justice. The pair today won the defamation case against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Judge LT Modiba of the Gauteng Local Division High Court in Johannesburg ordered the EFF and its National Spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlonzi to apologise for calling them spies, and also ordered that they pay them each R400 000 in damages.
SANEF has always held the view that labelling of journalists as members of ‘Stratcom’ - which was a notorious propaganda and disinformation unit of the security police unit of the Apartheid era – was dangerous and demeaning.
The EFF peddled and perpetuated these statements on social media almost two years ago following the publication of a documentary on the Huffington Post in which the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela makes these unsubstantiated claims.
The Huffington Post subsequently apologised.
Today the court also interdicted the EFF from making such claims about Harber and Gqubule-Mbeki in future, with the judge further declaring that the allegations made about Harber and Gqubule-Mbeki in the EFF statements and twitter accounts are defamatory and false.
“It is declared that the respondents’ publication of the statements was and continues to be unlawful. The respondents are ordered to remove the statements within 24 hours of the granting of this order from all their media platforms including the first respondents’ (EFF) website and the second respondents’ (Ndlozi) Twitter account,” Judge Modiba stated.
“The respondents are ordered, within 24 hours of the granting of this order, to publish a notice on all their media platforms, on which the statements had been published, in which they unconditionally retract and apologise for the allegations made about the applicants in the statements.”
“The respondents are interdicted from publishing any statement that says or implies that the applicants worked for or collaborated with the apartheid government,” Judge Modiba concluded.
SANEF believes that journalists should remain vigilant and continue fact-checking when dealing with unsubstantiated and untested claims.
SANEF also wishes to remind all political formations and interest groups to use the services of the Press Ombuds’ office and the Press Council when feeling aggrieved or unfairly treated by the press. It is better to have an incorrect report properly investigated and sanctions imposed than resorting to social media attacks on journalists and creating a toxic atmosphere of conspiracy-mongering and hatemongering towards the journalists and media in general.
Note for Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research, education and training programmes.
Issued by SANEF