In a column on News24 former Democratic Alliance leader and now Institute of Race Relations (IRR) policy fellow Helen Zille says if the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) won its case against the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) the win would ironically, curtail media freedom.
Last week, Sanef on behalf of five journalists approached the Equality Court in Pretoria after they were attacked by EFF leader Julius Malema and his supporters at a protest outside the Zondo commission last year.
Bongani Bngwa chats to Zille on her stance and Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase.
The point is not that I am siding with Malema, the point is that I am siding with the Constitution to defend free speech. In my opinion, what Malema said in that particular instance, cannot be classified as hate speech under the Constitution, but we have to wait for the court to decide.— Helen Zille, Policy fellow - Institute of Race Relations
She says the freedom of speech and opinion is the foundation of all other rights, without which she believes one cannot have media freedom.
Free speech is a fundamental value. Malema made very nasty comments against journalists, but I don't think they can be classified as hate speech. Because to be guilty of hate speech you have to threaten imminent violence. Unless you are threatening violence, your speech cannot be classified as hate speech no matter how nasty it is.— Helen Zille, Policy fellow - Institute of Race Relations
Zille says there is no such thing as a right not to be offended.
Mahlase says the context of what happened when Malema made those comments were critical and need to be explained.
At the time when he made those chilling comments, the journalists were standing in the crowd and they were feeling the heat as he was going on. What happened following his words, we started seeing people on Twitter demanding the addresses of journalists and Ranjeni Munusamy was accosted at a mall by so-called supporters.— Mahlatse Mahlase, Chairperson - Sanef
We were trying to draw that link between what Malema was saying and what subsequently happened amongst his supporters. We called on the EFF to issue a statement that they opposed to this violence and they refused. We are saying for someone in Malema's position, he cannot wash his hands from the reaction of his supporters following his own words.— Mahlatse Mahlase, Chairperson - Sanef
Listen below to the full interview: