FXI Law Clinic Cases

The FXI has contributed to the body of knowledge on freedom of expression in South Africa through cases undertaken by the FXI Law Clinic. The FXI Law Clinic has intervened in over 200 freedom of expression related matters since its inception. 

Brief history of the FXI Law Clinic

The Media Defence Trust was established in 1989 in response to the wave of state action against the media, such as the closure of newspapers and detention of journalists. In its six years of establishment the Media Defence Trust was the sole supporter and defender of independent media and journalists. The Media Defence Trust was incorporated into the FXI in 1994, at the request of its administrators, and became the Defence Fund of the FXI. The Defence Fund was re-launched as the Freedom of Expression Defence Fund in 1997 to reflect the broadening of its role to include all cases involving freedom of expression and access to information. The Freedom of Expression Institute Law Clinic was established in 2005 and is accredited by the Law Society of South Africa.

Manuel v. Crawford-Browne (2471/08) [2008] ZAWCHC 13 (3 Mar. 2008)
Mr. Manuel brought a defamation suit against Mr. Crawford-Browne, a prominent campaigner against an arms deal completed by Mr. Manuel in his role as Minister of Finance. The defamatory comments alleged extreme misconduct, including tax evasion and corruption, and stated that Mr. Manuel had "prostituted himself for the sake of political perks and power."

The Court noted that, as in all defamatory cases, two rights had to be balanced-dignity (section 10 of the Constitution) and freedom of expression (section 16 of the Constitution). While the Judge emphasized that freedom of expression should not be limited lightly, the Minister was still entitled to protect his reputation. The repetitive nature of the respondent's attacks seemed to sway the Court towards finding Mr. Crawford-Browne's statements as defamatory. The Court rejected the notion that an apology constituted sufficient remedy pointing to the aggressiveness and repetitiveness of the respondent in his attacks against the appellant. The Court ordered the respondent to cease making similar statements and to remove all allegations from his website accusing appellant of corruption or other criminal conduct.
March 03 2008 By Bongani Phiri
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