Published: Thursday 30 June 2005

-- Oil Companies South Africa

South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper, used to trouble during apartheid, is now in the bad books of the country's democratically elected government. Reason: it reported that the ruling African National Congress party had received taxpayer funds from oil giant Imvume. A defamation case was clamped on the paper and the Johannesburg High Court prevented it from carrying a follow-up.

The order left media watchdogs fuming. "We are deeply shocked by the judgement," said representatives of the South African chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa. "This issue is of great public interest because of the improper use of taxpayers' money." Imvume, on its part, claimed that the newspaper had obtained information illegally. The watchdogs, however, said the judgement was constitutionally questionable because it elevated a primary constitutional right, the right to privacy, above that of another primary constitutional right, that of press freedom.

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