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Judge Strikes Down Gag Order Against Investigative Outlet Amabhungane

The South Gauteng High Court has thrown out the attempt by the Moti Group to silence the journalists at amaBhungane and reaffirmed the public interest value of such investigative reporting.

Deputy Judge President Ronald Sutherland ruled that the amaBhungane

journalists can continue publishing their series on the Moti Group and they do not have to return the leaked Moti documents or identify their source.

Sutherland was scathing of the decision to allow the original Moti order to be heard ex parte (in secret). He said it was "a most egregious abuse of the process of court ... there is not a smidgeon of justification for it being brought ex parte”.

Sutherland also came out in favour of a journalist's right to hold and use leaked information when it is in the public interest. He affirmed that pre-publication censorship could only be used in extreme cases and journalists should be allowed as a rule to protect their sources.

Moti was ordered to pay all costs for all three hearings that led to this judgment.

Anton Harber of the Campaign for Free Expression said: "The original order concerned us greatly as it seemed that the judge was abandoning the courts' protection of free media, but this powerful ruling has reaffirmed our faith in the protection of our constitutional rights. This is a resounding victory for media freedom.

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