Judgment reserved in lioness poster case

Schalk Mouton

ADVOCACY group Avaaz will have to wait a bit longer to hear whether its controversial advertisement campaigning against the lion bone trade will be displayed again at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

Acting Judge Frank Bashall yesterday reserved judgment as Avaaz and the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) went head to head in a freedom of speech case.

Avaaz launched the case after 40 of its posters were taken down at the airport in August last year.

The posters, in the international arrivals hall, depicted President Jacob Zuma overseeing the supposed shooting of a lioness. A large handgun was juxtaposed on the image, with the caption, “President Zuma can save her life”.

The image goes along with a message, saying: “Our lions are being slaughtered to make bogus sex potions for Asia. Will President Zuma save them? Urge him to stop the deadly lion trade now.”

Avaaz, a global campaigning organisation with 21 million members across the world and about 326000 in South Africa, had by September last year gathered about 700000 signatures against the lion bone trade.

Avaaz legal counsel Advocate Steven Budlender argued that Acsa – as an organ of state – breached the company’s right to freedom of expression, as well as the act on administrative justice and the contract between Avaaz and Primedia, the company originally contracted to erect the advertisements at the airport.

They claim the removal of the posters was politically inspired.

Responding, Kate Hofmeyr said Acsa, as a custodian of Brand South Africa, had the responsibility to uphold a positive image of the country.

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