South Africa: EFF Failed to Address Its Failure to Instruct Followers to Stop Harrassing Karima Brown, Court Rules

Video screenshot of Karima Brown.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) did not meaningfully address their failure to take any steps or to stop the abuse and intimidation directed at senior political journalist Karima Brown, the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has found.

On Thursday morning, the high court ruled in favour of Brown who brought a case against the EFF and its leader Julius Malema.

High Court Judge Fiona Dippenaar said the EFF ignored requests to intervene and instruct their followers on Twitter to stop harassing Brown.

The court found that the EFF had contravened the electoral code and must pay costs.

"There was no attempt to curtail the self-professed EFF supporters from continuing with their harassment of her or any instruction to them to desist from their conduct," Dippenaar wrote in her judgment.

The talk show host hauled the party to court after receiving death and rape threats after Malema published her number on the social media platform.

Brown approached the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) seeking intervention against Malema and his political party.

The crux of the case began when Brown mistakenly sent an editorial brief to an EFF media WhatsApp group, instead of to a colleague.

She wrote: "Keep an eye out for this. Who are these elders? Are they all male and how are they chosen? Keep watching brief."

The message was quickly deleted but not before Malema was able to take a screenshot which was posted on his personal Twitter profile (followed by 2.3 million followers at the time) in which he alleged that Brown was attempting to send a "mole" to the EFF's breakfast for the elderly, News24 previously reported.

The tweet exposed Brown's cellphone number and led to a period of harassment, intimidation as well as death and rape threats.

Malema apologised to Brown during the party's media briefing in April, for putting her number on Twitter.

In her ruling, Dippenaar said EFF's mistrust of Brown and criticism of her conduct provided context and informs the party's conduct.

"Ms Brown's own strident and politically laced responses to the barrage of abuse served to further fuel the flames of discord.

"It is not surprising that her WhatsApp message was considered provocative and treated with suspicion by the respondents and their stance was hardened as a result of Ms Brown's resultant conduct.

"There may well be merit in their criticism of her conduct, but it does not avail the respondents to simply attack her conduct in order to deflect attention from their own."

Judge Dippenaar said in their answering papers, the EFF did not meaningfully address their "failure to take any steps to stop or stem the tide of abuse and intimidation" directed at Brown.

She also said the respondents further did not contend that they were not aware of the threats received by Brown.

"These threats were expressly brought to the attention of Mr Malema and other members of the EFF leadership by other journalists who requested them to intervene and stop the abuse.

"Mr Malema expressly refused to do so and effectively fuelled the flames by repeating accusations regarding Ms Brown's status as an ANC operative and mole," she said.

She also found that the respondents' "bald denial of causal connection between them and the conduct of the EFF supporters is also untenable".

However, although the High Court ruled in Brown's favour, it has not ordered the EFF to apologise.

The court said an apology would only serve to foster the "animosity" which already exists between the parties.

Brown had sought an apology from the EFF and Malema on their respective Twitter handles.

The court said it is not disputed that Malema had publicly apologised to Brown, but that Brown's complaint is that the apology is "belated and insincere".

Source: News24

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