CAPE TOWN: The convener of South Africa’s Alternative Media Forum may be jailed for contempt of court for speaking out about racism in a media company, unless a means of defending him against pending legal action is found and legal council secured. If an urgent interdict and gagging order is granted to Naspers MIH i.e. Media24, the global media corporation, the police may be given licence to jail Lewis and other media activists who form part of the NGO pitted against the corporation, for an automatic 21 days for contempt of court.
Media24 corporate executives have only to phone their local cop-shop and allege infringement to be given the full force of the law which currently discriminates against individuals in favour of large corporations, and this despite allegations of racial profiling and segregation in the workplace.
Horror stories of jailed activists abound. Take the experience of Max Ntanyana who was interdicted from speaking and writing against forced evictions and even prevented from participating in meetings of the anti-eviction campaign. He failed to contest the interdict and thus brok a court order by continuing in the campaign, only to end up spending about 9 months in the country’s toughest prison, Pollsmoor, on various contempt-of-court charges, until finally 2 years later fellow some activists managed to raise the necessary funds to have the conditions of the original interdict overturned.
Surely a denial of civil rights and liberties despite there being constitutional guarantees of freedom of _expression and association?
On a lighter note, Na’eem Jeenah of the Freedom of Expression Institute called yesterday morning to offer his support to the campaign. In the event that this all does end up in court, FXi may be appointed amicus. A similar trial against Angloplats is also in the offing, and the principle at stake is this: Corporations should not enjoy the same rights as individuals, and since they are not persons, cannot be defamed!
BREAKING NEWS: Cathryn Reece, the editor of Varsity, the University of Cape Town’s student newspaper and a SASPU affiliate has indicated that she intends covering this story which until now has been ignored by the mainstream press.
FURTHER: While membership on campus is growing, AltMediaF is going to open an account for donations towards David’s legal defence. More news on this later.