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Released on: March 3, 2024

Media freedom organisations hail High Court ruling on bid to silence newspaper

The High Court’s slapping down of a British company’s bid to stop the Mail & Guardian (M&G) from publishing material about them was a blow to those who rush to court to stop journalism, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) said after judgement was delivered today.

Justice J Makume ruled that Re Capital Holdings Ltd’s demand that the newspaper withdraw and apologise for an article they wrote and be restrained from further publication on this subject was not an urgent matter and struck it off the roll. It was a bid not just to stop the story, but to prevent future possible stories, lawyers had argued.

MMA and CFE appeared as friends of the court in the hearing. M&G had reported alleged links between Re Capital and one of their directors, Norman Leech, with BHIT, a company involved in a recent Ponzi scheme in South Africa.

“The courts have again stood up for media freedom in the face of a corporate attack on the rights of journalists,” said William Bird of MMA.

Anton Harber of CFE said: “We argued that this was a SLAPP case, which is one that is designed to harass and prevent critical journalism. We also argued that they had failed to follow the quicker alternative route of complaining to the Press Council.”

It is pleasing, the two organisations said, that the judge appeared to signal that complainants should use the quicker and cheaper route of the self-regulatory Press Council before rushing to court with an urgent application.

The case is a slap down for Slapp suits and another vote of confidence in tried and tested mechanisms like the Press Council.

Contacts:
William Bird, MMA – williamb@mma.org.za082 887 1370

Anton Harber, CFE – anton@harber.co.za; 083-3039497

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