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Compiled by Gareth Cotterell

Digital Editor

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

The Moti Group approached the court to prevent new articles being published and for ‘leaked’ documents to be returned.

The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has condemned attempts by the Moti Group to stop the publication of articles by amaBhungane. The series of articles by the investigative journalism unit exposes alleged corruption by the Moti Group.

Leaked documents

The Moti Group, led by controversial businessman Zunaid Moti, approached the Gauteng High Court to prevent the publication of new articles and force the journalists to return all the ‘leaked’ documents.

amaBhungane said Moti approached the court on Tuesday, without notifying the media group.

“The publication was not given any opportunity to be heard during this application,” it said.

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“Investigative journalism would cease to exist if companies implicated in wrongdoing could simply get secret court orders demanding journalists return their documents – as the Moti Group has done,” said amaBhungane.

Court ruling ‘unreasonable’

In response, Sanef said the court ruling is unreasonable.

“We believe the Moti Group sought to unreasonably gag further publication of any stories about their business, regardless of the public interest in their matters.

“The South African Constitution, among many rights it protects, recognises the upholding of freedom of expression and media freedom.”

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Sanef added that the interdiction to stop amaBhungane from publishing any story also “tramples on the right of journalists to do their work, and the public’s right to know”.

It said it will closely monitor this matter, which cannot be left unchallenged because of the implications it may have on the work journalists do.

“The accusation by the Moti Group, that the said papers were illegally obtained, cannot be left unchallenged.”

Damaging information

amaBhungane said the Moti Group has been “scrambling to contain a leak of damaging information” since the end of last year.

Former Moti employee, Clinton van Niekerk, allegedly downloaded thousands of company documents before resigning.

Former Treasury director-general, Dondo Mogajane, who is now the chief executive of the Moti Group, claimed in an affidavit that the documents are providing a “false narrative”.

“In the wrong hands, [the documents] will cause the Moti Group reputational damage if a false narrative based on the stolen documents is advanced, which is currently the case,” Mogajane said.

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