Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is concerned that the North Gauteng High Court sanctioned a gagging order on The Sunday Independent, without hearing from the newspapers lawyers.
On Friday the North Gauteng High Court granted an interdict application against the Sunday Independent. It prevented the newspaper from running a story that allegedly dealt with “malfeasance and violation of laws by the SAPS crime intelligence.”
Perhaps there were legitimate national security reasons why elements of the story could not be published. Perhaps not. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has no way of knowing. However, it is hard to know whether the court that granted the interdict order was in any better position to make such a judgment, as it made its decision in the absence of any lawyers for the defence. Surely a decision to gag a newspaper can only be made in the most serious of circumstances and when all the evidence is produced and examined?
It’s also regrettable that The Sunday Independent did not go into more detail explaining what had happened and how it came to pass that their story was censored, without their lawyers being in a position to argue the case for publication.
MMA is very concerned that the manner in which The Sunday Independent was censored provides another example of a tendency towards secrecy, rather than transparency. Surely in the current environment, where there are serious concerns on the impact of the Protection of Information Bill on investigate journalism, courts should ensure that a decision to censor content is made only when it is in full possession of all the facts, and arguments from both sides have been heard?