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Malema’s attack insulting and dangerous

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Malema's attack insulting and dangerous

EFF leader Julius Malema Picture: Nic Bothma/EPA/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

On Tuesday, the leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, raised some serious questions as to why the media in South Africa is not as hard on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan as it was on former president Jacob Zuma and leaders in the EFF such as Floyd Shivambu, whose brother was implicated in the looting of VBS Mutual Bank.

While Malema has a point about asking the right questions and for journalists to investigate and probe while holding everyone associated with state capture to account on an equal basis, attacking the integrity of the media and some senior journalists should be treated with extreme caution.

Malema made utterances such as, “kick the dog until the owner comes out” and called the evidence leader of the commission, SC Pretorius, a “bastard”.

He labelled some senior journalists as being part of Stratcom and what he termed the “Ramaphosa Defence Force”.

While Malema has a right to freedom of speech, the rules of the judicial commission into state capture clearly state that neither the commission nor the commissioner should be insulted.

Failure to comply with this carries a fine or a six-month jail term.

As much as politicians and journalists need to be held accountable, Malema needs to be careful when it comes to insulting Judge Raymond Zondo and other commission officials.

Rightfully so. Journalists also need to be held accountable if they are perceived to be abusing their power, however name-calling and making untested allegations against the media can have devastating consequences for media freedom in South Africa.

Malema’s vitriolic attack, which was condemned by the SA National Editors’ Forum, comes at a very volatile period towards elections, and poses a serious danger to the livelihood of journalists, including opening them up to cyberbullying.

Malema conflates the role that he should be playing as a public representative of asking parliamentary questions of Gordhan, and that of a journalist, who can publish only the scientific truth and ask questions based on evidence.

Malema’s unwarranted attacks on the media are not in the public interest, but come out of bitterness for Gordhan, the man he is angry with for taking away his farm, making him pay millions in tax and also taking his mansion in Sandton.