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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


Moti Group warns amaBhungane court battle is not over

The Moti Group was dealt a blow when a gag order against amaBhungane was overturned.


The Moti Group has warned the fight to stop the amaBhungane investigative journalism unit from publishing stories, using the company’s leaked documents, is far from over.

The Moti Group, led by controversial businessman Zunaid Moti, was dealt a blow on Monday after the Gauteng High Court overturned a gag order against amaBhungane.

The judgment set aside a previous order preventing it from using documents leaked by the whistleblower.

Judgment

In a scathing ruling, Judge Roland Sutherland found the Moti Group’s application to prevent amaBhungane from reporting on and using the leaked documents was an “abuse of the process of court”.

The Moti Group in a statement said that while the ruling was in the publication’s favour, “this is just the first round of an ongoing legal process”.  

ALSO READ: Blow for Zunaid Moti as court ungags amaBhungane

Dondo Mogajane, Treasury’s former director-general and now Moti Group CEO, said they have studied the judgment and believe that a factual finding was not made on amaBhungane’s possession of stolen documents.

Legal options

Mogajane said they are now considering their legal options going forward, including an approach to the Constitutional Court, as the matter relates to the constitutional right to privacy.

“We still believe strongly that it is unlawful for any media house to publish and make use of stolen documents.

ALSO READ: Sanef condemns attempts by Moti Group to ‘gag’ amaBhungane journalists

“There is no hierarchy of rights under the Constitution, and while I sincerely appreciate and support the freedom of the press, I do not believe that this can come at the expense of any person or entity’s constitutional right to privacy,” he stated.

“The facts of our specific case are unique, and we strongly believe that the legal issues at play deserve further consideration out of a matter of principle.”

Criminal matter  

The organisation added that it believes there is still a criminal matter pending regarding the theft of the documents.

“The Moti Group will be offering its full co-operation to the South African Police Service (Saps) where required to see the matter through to finality.”

However, in his ruling Judge Sutherland emphasised the importance of a free press saying there is a clear difference between stolen goods and leaked information.

“In South Africa ‘contraband information in the hands of journalists’ is an essential good without which our country cannot crawl out of the corrupt morass in which we find ourselves.”

Reputational damage

The Moti Group said it is taking the issue of “reputational damage very seriously”.

“We are determined not to allow amaBhungane’s journalists to abuse their position as press to advance a specific narrative. The organisation had therefore filed a complaint with the Press Ombudsman in June, and will potentially pursue other legal avenues,” the group said.

ALSO READ: Controversial businessman Zunaid Moti steps down as CEO of his firm

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