21 September 2017

South Africa: Mail and Guardian Wins Last-Minute Bid to Have Urgent Court Interdict Dismissed

In a last-minute bid, the Mail & Guardian has won a court battle interdicting them from publishing an article about a prominent Johannesburg lawyer, accused of sexually harassing a woman while she was a candidate attorney at his firm.

Judge Mohamed Ismail dismissed the urgent application in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg at 17:30 on Thursday, half an hour before the weekly publication was set to go to print.

He did not give his reasons for his decision.

Earlier, Advocate Nick Ferreira, for the applicant, told Ismail that his client was entitled to interdict the article and that if the court found that his client could be identified by readers, then an interdict must be issued.

He argued that the allegations mentioned in the paper were highly defamatory.

"Why is it in the public interest to tell a story of this... relationship between this particular attorney and his candidate attorney, and circumstance where there is a dispute between the two parties' versions. It is not in the public interest."

Earlier this month, Ferreira had approached the same court, seeking to secure an order barring the woman from speaking about the matter.

News24 previously reported that the lawyer, who once worked as a clerk in the Constitutional Court, had claimed that even though the female candidate attorney had not named him in her social media posts about the incident, everyone knew that she was pointing the finger of blame at him.Since then, he had been confronted by clients and believed his business and his reputation were under threat because he had been labelled a rapist - an allegation he denies.

As a result, he sought an urgent interdict which would stop the woman from continuing with the allegations and from making statements inferring that he was "powerful, corrupt, influential and well-connected", and could influence authorities from acting against him.

He also wanted the court to order that she remove all her allegations from social media and issue a public apology for "defaming" him.

The 26-year-old woman was expected to oppose the application but has yet to file papers.

Advocate Nazeer Cassim, for the Mail & Guardian, defended his client's right to editorial independence and said the content of the article did not identify who the applicant was to their readers.

"The press is an independent party. This is in the public interest. It is a current matter. We must bring it to the forefront," Cassim argued.

Source: News24

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