The judgment handed down today in the Pietermaritzburg High Court is an overwhelming
win for media freedom and freedom of expression in South Africa!
The judge’s acHon in throwing out former President Jacob Zuma’s case against journalist
Karyn Maughan is a victory for all of journalism, as it reinforces the right of reporters to be
free to do their job of covering important court cases without hindrance or harassment.
Zuma’s aMack on a journalist has been decisively slapped down. Maughan was collateral
damage in Zuma’s “Stalingrad” strategy to delay his trial and deflect from the accusaHons
against him – and Maughan should be commended for standing firm against this onslaught.
A few other interesHng points emerge from the judgment. Firstly, how flimsy the accusaHons
made by Zuma and his lawyers against Maughan were; secondly, how Zuma’s family and
supporters have relentlessly trolled Maughan online; thirdly, that the judgment strengthens
the argument that we have to guard against SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public
We entered this case to argue that it should be considered a SLAPP case – one that is
intended not to serve jusHce but to silence a journalist or criHc, and we urged the court to
protect against this. This judgment has done so. We welcome the specific clause ,
which states “If one accepts the submissions of Maughan rela6ng to the relief she seeks in
the applica6on to interdicts the Respondent, then we agree with the first to third amici that
the Respondent’s private prosecu6on of Maughan has all the elements of a SLAPP suit in
that, it relates to her obliga6ons as a journalist to report on maDers in the public interest. It
infringes on her right to freedom of expression, specifically, press freedom and the public’s
right to receive such informa6on. It has the effect of in6mida6ng, harassing and silencing her
as its ulterior mo6ve and for reasons already men6oned in the judgment, the prosecu6on
lacks prospects of success. If one accepts Maughan’s submissions, then she has
demonstrated that the Respondent’s private prosecu6on has been ins6tuted for the sole
purpose of silencing her and not to vindicate a right”. The clause also stands in clear
alignment with the Special Rapporteur 2023 Joint declaraHon on SLAPP suits.
The court didn’t just accept Maughan’s submissions it also awarded costs against Mr Zuma.
We also welcome the precedent-seang comments in the judgment that amici do not have
to be completely neutral in their contribuHons.
As we move into our elecHon period in the lead up to the 2024 NaHonal ElecHons, this
judgment stands as a shining defence of media freedom and a warning for those who wish
to silence and inHmidate journalists and media.
For further informaHon or comment, contact:
• Campaign for Freedom of Expression: Anton Harber [firstname.lastname@example.org,
• Media Monitoring Africa: William Bird [email@example.com, +27828871370] /
Thandi Smith [firstname.lastname@example.org, +27734707306]
• SANEF: Sbu Ngalwa [Sbungalwa@gmail.com, +27734041415 / Reggy Moalusi