Lawyers leave the Johannesburg High Court in this March 2015 file photograph. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)
Lawyers leave the Johannesburg High Court in this March 2015 file photograph. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

South African court orders group to cease harassing journalists

New York, July 7, 2017–A Johannesburg High Court order forbidding a political organization from gathering outside the home of journalists who have reported on corruption, threatening them, or inciting others to harm them is a welcome victory for press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Today’s court order came in response to a petition from the South African National Editors’ Forum asking for an injunction to stop activists from the Black First Land First (BLF) group from continuing to harass, intimidate, assault, or threaten 11 journalists, editors, and commentators who have alleged corruption, according to media reports.

BLF members on June 29 picketed outside the home of Peter Bruce, editor-at-large for the Tiso Blackstar media group, spray-painted a threatening message on his home, and allegedly assaulted Business Day editor Tim Cohen and political commentator Karima Brown, who were there to express solidarity with their colleague, according to reports. Members subsequently threatened other journalists with similar protests at their homes and places of worship, and threatened and insulted them on social media, according to reports.

“For democracy to flourish, journalists must be free to operate without attempts to intimidate them with threats and violence,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa Program Coordinator. “Targeting journalists in this way sends a chilling message. Today’s decision from the Johannesburg High Court reaffirms that this behavior is illegal and unacceptable.”