The South
African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has condemned the national transport
department’s attempt to stop Afrikaans newspaper Beeld from publishing a story
about the security of the controversial eNaTIS, writes Bate Felix.

In a statement, Sanef condemned the conduct of the
department for “first requesting time to respond and then making an application
to court at a time that was seriously disruptive of the newspaper's production
and publishing routines and likely to incur high legal costs despite the
agreement reached with the newspaper.”

The transport department has denied that they are trying to
gag the paper. Collen Msibi, spokesperson for the department said in a
statement that they had applied for an urgent interdict to prevent the Media24
Group from publishing audit findings that do not belong in the public domain.

“This is not an attempt by the department to gag the press
but to seek adherence to

legislative requirements on how audit findings are dealt
with before the final report is tabled in Parliament,” he said.

Beeld’s investigative team have been running several stories
on the woes of the new national transport management system which has failed to
run since its installation in April and has disrupted license registration

Adriaan Basson, a Beeld investigative reporter, told the
media that the paper had obtained a section of one of the Auditor-General's
reports on eNaTIS and on Tuesday morning asked the department to comment on it.
Instead of providing comment, the department brought the application to halt
the publication of the story.

The case will be heard in the Pretoria High Court on
Thursday morning.


Sanef chairperson Ferial Haffajee praised Beeld’s effort to
bring information to the public that is clearly embarrassing to the department.
She deplored the fact that this was yet another example of institutions
attempting to use court processes to censor newspapers from publishing
information that is of public interest.

“Information about the failures of the eNaTIS system has
become a matter of high public interest in view of the enormous financial
losses that the system has incurred for the motor industry, motorists and other
members of the public,” Haffajee said.

Sanef called on the judiciary to note the increasing use of
this form of censorship and to apply the Constitutional injunction that the
Bill of Rights applies to all law and binds the legislature, the executive, the
judiciary and all organs of state.

“The judicial process is being used to circumvent the media
freedom clauses in the Constitution and the Constitutional requirement that the
state must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights'' in the
Constitution, which includes media freedom,” she said.