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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Sanef: Zuma private prosecution on journo an ‘attack on media freedom’

Zuma launched proceedings against journalist Karyn Maughan and senior state prosecutor, advocate Billy Downer, in the KZN High Court.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) says former President Jacob Zuma’s private prosecution of News24 journalist Karyn Maughan is an attack on media freedom.

Zuma launched the proceedings against Maughan and senior state prosecutor, advocate Billy Downer, in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.

The private prosecution comes after a criminal complaint opened by the former president in October last year at the Pietermaritzburg police station against Downer for allegedly leaking his confidential medical records to Maughan.

ALSO READ: Zuma lodges private prosecution proceedings against Downer and journalist

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) gave Zuma a private prosecution certificate – known as nolle prosequi – in June this year after it declined to prosecute Downer for allegedly leaking the former president’s medical records.

The NPA cited a lack of evidence for its decision.

Sanef said it has noted with disgust the serving of summons on Maughan.

“The summons, served by former President Jacob Zuma’s legal team, is a clear case of intimidation solely intended to silence Maughan.

“As Sanef previously stated in June when Maughan was cited as a respondent, the information published by Maughan was of public record and not confidential.”

Sanef said pursuing this matter through private prosecution is not only vindictive but intended to intimidate Maughan and other journalists.

As the media, we are aware that once papers are filed in court, they become public record. Hence the latest serving of summons is uncalled for and an unwarranted move.

As this is a clear attack on media freedom, Sanef intends to fully support News24 and is considering joining the case as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’).

Sanef said it is also disheartening to note a tweet made by Zuma’s daughter, Dudu Zuma-Sambudla, which appears to incite violence against Maughan.

Zuma-Sambudla tweeted: “We Are Going to AfriForum Them.”

In another tweet, she responds to a post by Maughan after the private prosecution was launched.

“We Will Meet in Court.  Open Your Comments Miss SC.”

ALSO READ: ‘The wheel turns’: MKMVA’s warning to ‘wayward ANC leaders who target Zuma’

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