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FXI welcomes court ruling refusing Transport Department's request for pre-publication interdict against newspaper

(FXI/IFEX) - The following is a 31 May 2007 FXI press release:

FXI welcomes court ruling on Beeld e-Natis interdict

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) welcomes the fact that, earlier today, the Pretoria High Court refused to grant an interdict against Beeld newspaper, sought by the Department of Transport.

The newspaper was seeking to publish the findings of a leaked report by the Auditor General into security glitches in the controversial electronic traffic information system, the e-NaTIS system. When Beeld approached the Department for comment, it responded by seeking an urgent interdict.

This judgement confirms a recent tendency on the part of our courts to be extremely reluctant to grant pre-publication interdicts. This is a welcome departure from an earlier trend, where courts were somewhat cavalier with the media's right to publish controversial information. The judgement is yet another indication that the tide is turning against pre-publication censorship, and confirms the fact that the courts cannot be used so easily anymore to frustrate media freedom.

However, while this judgement is a victory for media freedom, it does call into question the conduct of the Department of Transport. It is unfortunate that the taxpayer will now have to foot the bill for the entire episode, as the court awarded costs against the Department, and amounts to a waste of taxpayer's money. Government departments should desist from using public money to pursue foolhardy, but expensive attempts, to cover up examples of maladministration.

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