EDITORIAL | Cannot allow mob attacks on the press

EFF leader Julius Malema
EFF leader Julius Malema
Image: Alon Skuy/The Times

On Tuesday journalist and broadcaster Karima Brown mistakenly sent out an editorial brief text message meant for her producers to the EFF’s media WhatsApp group.

The text was in line with normal newsroom briefing practice. In dramatic fashion, party leader Julius Malema tweeted a screen shot of the message, revealing Brown’s cellphone number and claimed she was sending moles to the party’s planned event.

He went further, stating his belief that Brown was an intelligence operative for the state.

Predictably, his tweet triggered a barrage of threats and intimidation from party supporters.

Like a raging mob, they harassed her with phone calls, racist and misogynistic texts and tweets threatening the most vile acts, including rape.

Brown has opened a case with the police and Malema has since deleted the tweet.

Brown is not the first female journalist in particular to come under fire from EFF supporters.

Similar threats and acts of intimidation have been meted out to many others who dared to question or challenge Malema and his party folk.

Therefore, by posting Brown’s editorial brief and presenting it as some insidious plan to attack the party, Malema was mindful that he was inciting his cult-like mob to go after her.

This is why Malema and those who threatened Brown and other journalists in similar fashion must be held accountable, legally and otherwise.

The EFF’s actions must be understood as having little to do with Brown, or any other journalist.

Their actions are ultimately about using thuggery, disguised as militancy, to undermine principles of accountability and transparency in a democratic state.

Regardless of one’s views on a particular journalist, we must at the very least agree that these attacks go beyond individuals targeted.

That is why they must never be allowed.