Shock at ruling against Independent Newspapers

PRETORIA- The National Press Club has expressed its shock at a North Gauteng High Court ruling which interdicted Independent Newspapers (Pty) Ltd “from publishing any information of any individual” within the Division: Crime Intelligence of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The Minister of Police, National Commissioner and Divisional Commissioner of Crime Intelligence brought an urgent application before the court on Friday evening to stop the Sunday Independent from publishing any information about appointments and to return documents in possession of the newspaper.

It is believed that the newspaper wanted to expose alleged nepotism within Crime Intelligence. Last week, the paper published a series of allegations. The urgent hearing was set for 8pm this evening. Legal counsel for Independent Newspapers apparently informed the State Advocates that they were running late from Johannesburg because of traffic. Shortly before 9am, Judge Ephriam Makgoba decided to continue with the hearing, in the absence of the respondent’s legal team. Within minutes, the judge made a ruling in favour of the applicants. Judge Makgoba ordered Independent Newspapers from “publishing or causing to published any information pertaining to the advertisement and appointment of any individual within the Division: Crime Intelligence.” The respondents were also ordered to immediately hand over any information or documentation about appointments to the SAPS. If they failed to comply, the Sheriff of the Court was ordered to seize the information and/or documentation and hand it over to Crime Intelligence. The newspaper was ordered to pay the costs of two counsels. Chairperson of the National Press Club, Yusuf Abramjee, said: “We are shocked. The ruling came as a surprise and without legal argument by both parties.

“This is a travesty of justice. There may be a technical point here because the respondent’s legal counsel was not on time. But, that’s not good enough. The case should have been argued on its merits. “The newspaper wanted to report on alleged nepotism. Now, they have been barred from doing so. The public has a right to know and the ruling is a smack in the face for media freedom and free speech,” said Abramjee. “The application and the ruling also reflect negatively on the SAPS. What have they got to hide? “ said Abramjee. “We have been told that the matter will be taken on appeal by the Sunday Independent to higher courts. They need to fight this ruling and have it overthrown. Public interest must be served,” he added. “The media must be the watchdogs. Any attempts to silence us must be opposed, “the statement said.

Enquiries: Yusuf Abramjee – cell 082 4414 203