Learning from tragedy: The Marikana massacre and the right to protest


Zororo Mavindidze
Senior Researcher, Freedom of Expression Institute

While discussing the subject of protests in South Africa, the host of a popular talk radio show asked how much we as a nation have learnt from the tragedy which left 44 people dead in Marikana three years ago. The short answer is that we have not learnt enough.

This is in spite of an extensive Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate ‘matters of public, national and international concern’ arising out of the tragedy. However, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry released earlier this year do not explicitly reaffirm the right to protest by holding those responsible for the tragedy to account. Furthermore, many of the families who lost their sole breadwinners are still left without recourse for the pain and loss they have suffered. Continue reading

FXI condemns t-shirt incident at Virgin Active

On Wednesday, 12 August, health club chain Virgin Active asked an activist, Muhammed Desai, to leave one of its clubs in Johannesburg for wearing a pro-Palestine t-shirt. The chain initially defended its decision, saying “the T-shirt worn by Mr Desai generated strong complaints from fellow members” and he was “politely requested by management not to wear it in future.” Mr Desai, the national co-ordinator of the South African chapter of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions lobby against Israel (BDS), rejected the request and appeared at the club wearing the t-shirt, prompting Virgin Active to call police who removed him from the club’s premises.

The Freedom of Expression Institute notes with concern the violation of Mr Desai’s freedom of expression, a right guaranteed in Section 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

In its initial statement Virgin Active said Mr Desai ignored their request not to unsettle other members, who were made uncomfortable by the t-shirt, and that police was only called in when he became confrontational. However, their request was in contravention of the law. Jane Duncan, a former director at the FXI, says that according to the BDS SA v Continental Outdoor Media case, the constitution overrules whatever rules any private entity like Virgin Active might have in place. If those rules contravene constitutionally-enshrined laws they are illegal. Continue reading

Remembering the Marikana Massacre



(Remembering Marikana)

The Freedom of Expression Network will be joining fellow South Africans on 16 August 2015 to commemorate what has come to be known as the Marikana Massacre. On 16 August 2012, at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, Rustenberg, the South African Police Service (SAPS), brutally massacred 34 mine workers striking for better pay. It is important to note that the massacre was not a spontaneous eruption, but was the result of years of unchecked violent state actions in various parts of the country.

Since the advent of the democratic state in 1994, dozens of protesters, including striking workers, have been killed at the hands of police. The SAPS is tasked with ensuring the safety of the public, and should remain ethical and impartial in doing so. This, however, was not the case during the strike in Lonmin. It is highly speculated that government and mining bosses colluded to ensure that the striking Lonmin workers were silenced, resulting into the massacre. Continue reading

Media and the Law: A handbook for community journalists



06 AUGUST 2015

The FXI has just published an updated handbook – targeted to the needs of community media organisations – breaking down the law as it applies to the media.

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) has charted a trend of increasing censorship of the media and individual journalists over the past few years. This censorship is not only directly applied through laws and lawsuits, but also indirectly, through, for example, self-censorship and withdrawal of advertising.

While big media organisations are usually well equipped to deal with these dangers, small community media often lack the knowledge, skills and resources to fend off these threats to their freedom to publish or their very existence.

This handbook is intended to be a desk reference for small, independent and community media organizations, equipping them with the following tools:

  • information on laws that affect journalists’ ability to report,
  • information about the current state of media law,
  • awareness of media rights and how to protect and enforce them,
  • enable informed decisions about whether items can be published legally,
  • what to do if published items do attract threats of legal action,
  • create a working knowledge of media freedom issues at paralegal and advice office level, so that legal capacity is built to support grassroots media.

Continue reading