During an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Memorial Service for former President Mugabe, Julius Malema said that they would ban Daily Maverick, Amabhungane and Scorpio from EFF events.
“We declare them as an enemy of the revolution, and they shall never participate in our events, they shall never answer any question, from Amabhungane, Daily Maverick, from Scorpio. … Let us treat Amabhungane the same way we treated ANN7 and The New Age, they are the same they are anti us, we shall treat them as enemies.”
While the EFF are well known for their strident tone and often, aggressive language, the call for a ban of media, as well as calling them enemies is a new low point in relations between the media and the EFF. More importantly, all supporters of democracy must reject the statements, regardless of their political leanings or views of the media concerned.
A call for a ban on media attending events is fundamentally anti-democratic, and naming them as enemies is inflammatory. Given our current context, both elements are clearly at odds with seeking to reduce violence, and follow due process. How people feel about Daily Maverick or Amabhungane, or Scorpio, or indeed any other media who adhere to agreed codes and guidelines is immaterial. A ban is a blunt instrument that denies the media their right to access information, and their right to report fairly. Our Constitution does indeed allow rights to be limited, but only when such limitation is: “reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors.” (Section 36 SA constitution). Given that the ban is a clear, blanket limitation to the right to access to information it is difficult to imagine how it could possibly be justified, especially given the numerous avenues for recourse that are available to anyone who has an issue with media in South Africa.
If any entity feels aggrieved by media in South Africa, they can, in the current instance, approach the media directly and ask for a right of reply. They can lodge a formal complaint with the Press Council, they can if they feel their reputation has been damaged sue the media for defamation, or if they feel their dignity has been violated they can lodge a criminal complaint of crimen injuria and take the media to court. They may also, openly and freely, express their displeasure, dislike, and critique of the media in any number of forums from events, press releases and social media accounts. Instead of opting for one or a combination of these, the approach has been to call for the most extreme anti-democratic action of a ban. Such an action is clearly a violation of our Bill of Rights.
As we struggle to build and realise the full potential of our democracy, where we seek to ensure dignity and equality for all, we cannot tolerate efforts that seek to undermine the very constitution that gives political parties their legitimacy. To make matters even more concerning the identification of the media as enemies is akin to the executive branch of government calling the judiciary, or parliament its enemy, for indeed media are an equally integral element of a democracy. You cannot have a democracy where media are not free.
Calling the media enemies is thus not only inflammatory it is also anti-democratic and is the kind of thing we would expect from a right wing agent like Donald Trump. Our real enemies in South Africa are gender based violence, child abuse, poverty, inequality, racism, xenophobia, our climate crisis, poor health and education systems, and unresolved land distribution issues. Banning any media and calling them enemies does not help build our democracy, nor does it assist in combatting any of our real enemies. All it does do is serve to distract and take attention form the real enemies. It increases
tensions, increases the likelihood for more violence, seeks to censor and stifle dialogue, and undermines our Constitution.
We call on the EFF to urgently withdraw the ban and naming media as enemies, and instead to pursue the range of other democratic means to address concerns they have. If the EFF choose to uphold their call for a ban, MMA will, with support from partner organisations, be exploring available legal action to ensure that the protection of media freedom in South Africa is protected and upheld. We encourage media to support the Daily Maverick, Amabhungane and Scorpio and stand together as a sector, and we hope all people will exercise care and restraint as we seek to build our democracy.
For more information, please contact:
Mr William Bird (MMA Director) williamb@mma.org.za/+27828871370
Thandi Smith (Head of Policy Programme) thandis@mma.org.za/+27734707306
For more information in other South African languages contact:(Xitsonga) Ntsako Manganyi– ntsakom@mma.org.za (isiZulu/ Sotho) Nomshado Lubisi – nomshadol@mma.org.za (isiXhosa) Azola Dayile – ​azolad@mma.org.za
Tel: 011 788 1278