Zuma’s private prosecution of journalist ‘a clear abuse of power’- News24 editor

Bruce Whitfield interviews Adriaan Basson, Editor-in-chief of News24 about Jacob Zuma’s court action.

– Former president Jacob Zuma is launching a private prosecution against state advocate Billy Downer and News24 journalist Karyn Maughan

– The details News24 published of Zuma’s medical condition were attached to court papers lodged at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, says editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson


FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture inquiry in Johannesburg on 17 November 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

Jacob Zuma has launched a private prosecution against state advocate Billy Downer and News24 legal journalist Karyn Maughan.

The court action concerns details published of Zuma’s medical condition.

News24 editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson points out that this information was attached to court papers lodged at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg last year.

According to Zuma’s legal team, Downer leaked the information to Maughan and publication violated sections of the National Prosecuting Act.

The former president had opened a criminal case in this regard in 2021, but in April this year the NPA announced its decision not to prosecute.

Basson says he is upset not because he thinks News24 did anything wrong, rather that a former president can use these kinds of “intimidatory tactics” against a journalist, threatening them with criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

What is so ironic is that the letter from Zuma’s doctor was actually also attached to Zuma’s own papers that were filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. This happened during that period when Zuma was in prison but was apparently too ill to stay in Estcourt prison and had to be moved for emergency treatment in a Pretoria hospital.

Adriaan Basson, Editor-in-chief – News24

We published details from that letter on the morning after the court had opened and the papers were served on all the parties, so according to us and our legal team we’ve done nothing wrong.

Adriaan Basson, Editor-in-chief – News24

Basson says Zuma’s action smacks of desperation.

It smacks of someone who’s again trying through legal shenanigans to get his trial postponed, to probably not face his own corruption charges… think there’s something deeply disturbing in a very powerful politician threatening a woman journalist with imprisonment and forcing her to face a criminal trial.

Adriaan Basson, Editor-in-chief – News24

A statement released by the Jacob Zuma Foundation says Downer and Maughan’s conduct “constitutes a serious criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment”.

To my knowledge a journalist has never been prosecuted for something they did in the call of duty. We think it is a clear abuse of power; I also heard the NPA today saying that it’s an abuse of court processes.

Adriaan Basson, Editor-in-chief – News24

Another question of course, is how the financially strapped Zuma would fund the costly exercise if it does in fact get to court.

Scroll up to listen to Basson’s analysis

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Zuma’s private prosecution of journalist ‘a clear abuse of power’- News24 editor

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