Jacob Zuma’s attempt to intimidate the media will fail. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks
Jacob Zuma’s attempt to intimidate the media will fail. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Former president Jacob Zuma’s criminal prosecution of News24 reporter Karyn Maughan is a feeble attempt to intimidate her and through her, all journalists… write the GroundUp editors.

Like anyone else, Zuma has the right under the Criminal Procedure Act to bring a private criminal prosecution if he considers himself the victim of a crime and the National Prosecuting Authority has not taken action. The crime of which Zuma has accused Maughan is the publication, in contravention of the National Prosecuting Authority Act, of a “confidential” letter on his health, a delicate matter since the former president is fighting for medical parole from a prison sentence.

Maughan’s employers have pointed out that the letter in question is a public document, filed before a court, and a matter of great public interest. But whatever the outcome of the case currently before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, Maughan and News24 will have had to hire expensive legal teams, fight an unpleasant court battle, and face the prospect – however remote – of a 15 year sentence. All of which might be thought to have a chilling effect on other journalists reporting on the former president’s affairs.

But Zuma has miscalculated here. Maughan’s employers, the South African National Editors Forum, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, and her colleagues in journalism are solidly behind her. She was only doing her job. And her job is an important one, not just for those of us who do it, but for anyone who relies on the media to bring them information.

We support Karyn Maughan in her fight. Zuma’s attempt at intimidation will not work.

“This will be a lesson” to journalists, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla tweeted when the papers were served on Maughan last year. No. It won’t.

Published originally on GroundUp

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