NEWS

BLF Intimidation Continues 'Minutes After Interdict Granted'

Supporters harassed editors, commentators and political figures shortly after the court ruled in favour of the editors' forum.

07/07/2017 14:51 SAST | Updated 07/07/2017 15:15 SAST

Irate supporters of the Black First Land First (BLF) movement continued to threaten and insult journalists and political figures at the Johannesburg high court on Friday, shortly after an interdict was granted to the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) against BLF.

Acting Judge Corrie van der Westhuizen ruled that BLF members may not intimidate or assault journalists, or go to their homes. But shortly after the judgment was handed down, Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota was among the journalists, editors and political figures harassed while briefing the media on the "win for press freedom".

Two BLF supporters outside the court yelled at Lekota, accusing him of being a "sellout to white interests" and a liar. A crowd joined in, shouting: "Lekota sellout!" Attempting to move away so the media could hear him speak, BLF supporters continued to follow him and drown out his speech.

'Where is SAPS? We are being intimidated right now!'

Addressing the press shortly afterwards, political analyst -- and an applicant in the case against BLF -- Karima Brown said, "We've just been handed an interdict that is supposed to protect us from intimidation. We are being intimidated as we speak and the police are not here. This is exactly what happened outside Peter Bruce's house".

Sanef deputy chairperson Katy Katopodis added, "It's also exactly what has just happened outside the courtroom." Katopodis told HuffPost SA that "the reality is that the moment the judge granted the interdict, just a few minutes after that, the BLF started hurling abuse, threatening and intimidating us, our colleagues and the chairperson of Sanef, Mahlatse Gallens," she said.

"That is unacceptable, it is in contravention of this court order. So the big question is, where is the SAPS to arrest them?"

Gallens told members of the press outside the courthouse that "the court judgment was very clear. The judge ruled in our favour and ordered that the BLF has to denounce violence on its website within 12 hours. It's unfortunate that within minutes of the judgment we had our reporters, editors, commentators being insulted, harassed and intimidated by the BLF."

Gallens said the police need to take action as the applicants had taken the matter as far as they could, "which is to bring it to court... to uphold the rule of law and defend the right of journalists to do their work," she said.

The case was also about "every South Africans' individual rights", she said. "Media freedom speaks to the public's right to know, and what BLF is trying to do is to silence the media so that the public doesn't know. They've specifically targeted journalists that have done in-depth reporting on allegations of corruption and state capture, all in an attempt to threaten and intimidate them," she said.

BLF is not deterred, says Mngxitama

BLF leader Andile Mngxitama said moments after the court judgment that the BLF would continue to protest against "racist whites".

"This judge just gave them whatever they wanted. BLF is not a criminal organisation. We are fighting criminality. Racism is the number one crime in this country. Racism is harassment and intimidation. So we have no problem to write a statement to claim we are fighting criminality expressed as racism.

"Nobody has the right to be racist. Peter Bruce, Alec Hogg, all of those white journalists we mentioned have no right to be racists," he said. "If they are going to write any racist material, we are going to protest against them, let's be absolutely clear.

"Any white racist journalist who believes this judgment means they can be racist is wrong. They are mistaken and misled. We as BLF shall deal with acts of racism."

"We are going to monitor these white journalists. Should they write any racist material, we are going to exercise our right to protest and to protest against them. We won't be deterred," he said. Mngxitama said they still wouldn't protest against black journalists as they are experiencing identity crises and "believe they are white".

Van der Westhuizen said in his judgement: "The life of a journalist is not easy. The profession of a journalist, and in particular that of an investigative journalist, is seldom appreciated. More than often it is criticised. The public often frowns upon the reporting of a journalist. His or her actions are continuously subjected to criticism or alleged bias or sensation. Seldom a word of gratitude is expressed."