Statement from PEN South Africa and PEN International
6 November 2017 – PEN South Africa and PEN International note with grave concern the threats of legal action issued by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the State Security Agency (SSA) against Jacques Pauw, journalist and author of The President’s Keepers, and the publisher of the book, NB Publishers. The book investigates the financial affairs of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, including his tax records and allegations of corruption.
The measures by government agencies, which include demands for partial retractions and public withdrawal of the book as well as threatened legal action to prevent further distribution, printing, publishing and promotion of the book, are intended to censor, intimidate and silence the author, publisher, and distributors, and all those working to hold the state to account.
Although PEN SA and PEN International appreciate that the constitutionally enshrined right to freedom of expression may under certain circumstances be subject to limitations, restrictions may only be imposed to meet a legitimate aim, namely for the protection of national security or the public order or public health and morals; must be prescribed in law and must be proportionate and necessary, in line with South Africa’s obligations under universal and regional international human rights law. In applying the restrictions, care must be taken not to hamper the press’ public watchdog function, without which worrying state abuses and excesses may not have been brought to light.
PEN SA urges all citizens and civic organisations dedicated to upholding the constitution to join us in condemning the State Security Agency’s intimidation tactics against Jacques Pauw and NB Publishers.