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South Africans clash on Twitter over #Zumaspear

(CPJ/IFEX) - June 4, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator

South African journalist and arts critic Charl Blignaut made what turned out to be an excellent prediction. "Of all the work on show, it's this depiction of the president that will set the most tongues wagging and most likely generate some howls of disapproval," he wrote on May 13 in a review of an art exhibition in Johannesburg.

In his description of "The Spear," which was part of a series of satirical works by artist Brett Murray poking fun at the leadership of the ruling African National Congress, Blignaut wrote, "I encounter a portrait of [President] Jacob Zuma in the pose of Lenin. The trousers are open and the presidential penis hangs exposed."

Indeed, a firestorm of controversy ensued: racial tensions, the burnings of copies of Blignaut's City Press newspaper, a protest march, a regulatory hearing, and intense debate between proponents of free speech and press freedom and those of the rights to privacy and honor.

Over a period of several days, South Africans did howl their disapproval--on Twitter.

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