Saturday, September 1, 2007

SAJR versus SAHRC, FXI, M&G & KASRILS

(Scroll down. Read last email first)
( I include this correspondence from April 2007 as "FIX THE FXI" has only recently gone on-line.)
The correspondence concerns the publication of Prof Givender's (SAHRC) "hate speech" report in The Mail and Guardian. The report, inter alia, argued that the Kasrils " Nazi / Israeli " slur is not hate speech.


Subject: Fwd: DOUBLE STANDARDS AT THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION INSTITUTE ?
Date: 30 April 2007 4:06:12 PM
To: kgovender

Dear Professor Govender,

I have not received a response from Jane Duncan (FXI) concerning The M&G's refusal to publish a reply from The SAJR ( re The SAHRC's "hate speech" report.)

I realize that The SAHRC now considers this matter to be closed, but I believe that The FXI's silence is clear evidence that The FXI is not impartial with regard to their handling of this matter. Unfortunately, I have to conclude that the the reputation of The SAHRC has been tarnished in the process as the forum that you chose to publish your findings has been effectively closed to the editor of The SAJR.

yours sincerely,
ANTHONY POSNER



Subject: Re: THE SAJR AND THE M&G
Date: 27 April 2007 4:14:16 PM
To: kgovender

Dear Professor Govender,

Thank you for keeping me informed with regard to The SAHRC's deliberations.

On a broader level, The SAHRC should bear in mind that :

(1) in virtually all non-Islamic countries a government minister who used the "Israel/ Nazi" slur would be sacked and

(2) a human rights commission in these countries would be very reluctant to come to the aid of any government minister who continually published this repulsive slur.

The SAHRC should now embark on a trip to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen so that it can understand the reasons why non-Islamic countries have adopted such attitudes.

Yours sincerely,

ANTHONY POSNER




On 27 Apr 2007, at 11:11 AM, Karthy Govender wrote:

Dear Mr Posner

I discussed yor concerns and my reply to your e-mail at the meeting of the Commission on 25th April 2007. The Commission was unanimously of the view that my response was both accurate and appropriate. Your subsequent submissions do not change our view. As far the Commission is concerned, the matter is now closed.

thank you

Yours faithfully


Professor K Govender

ANTHONY POSNER 04/26/07 12:34 PM
Dear Ferial and "all your other colleagues",

(1) The "substance" of Mr Sifrin's point was not carried in your
"apology".

(2) Mr Sifrin is not "cool" with your decision. He is actually
extremely angry about it.

(3) Mr Sifrin wants you to publish his letter together with a proper
apology for the way that you have treated him.

(4) "With respect" I am not conflating issues which are completely
different.

(5) I am going to forward this correspondence to The SA National
Editors Forum.

Thank you,

ANTHONY POSNER

On 26 Apr 2007, at 9:50 AM, Ferial Haffajee Personal wrote:


Dear Mr. Posner and all other colleagues

The substance of Mr. Sifrin’s point was carried in an apology we
published the week after Karthy Govender’s article was published. I
wrote to Geoff and he seemed cool with my decision. With respect, I
think that Anthony is conflating issues which are completely
different. As I’ve told you before, Anthony, I do not want to be
included in your correspondence with the FXI.

Please respect my right not to be.

Thank-you,

Ferial Haffajee


On 4/26/07 9:35 AM, "ANTHONY POSNER" wrote:

Dear Jane Duncan and Na'eem Jeenah,

I alert you both re my letter to the ombudsman at The Mail and
Guardian.

Please can The FXI immediately intervene to ensure that The SAJR's
freedom of expression is not undermined by The Mail and Guardian?

VIVAVIVA
ANTHONY POSNER

From: ANTHONY POSNER
Date: 24 April 2007 4:54:37 PM
To: "Karthy Govender"
Subject: Re: LETTER TO THE M&G EDITOR

Dear Karthy Govender,

Thank you for your email.

You state that The SAHRC "cannot direct the editorial policies of publications." However, it should be borne in mind that The SAHRC chose to publicize its "hate speech" findings in The Mail and Guardian. As a result, I think that The SAHRC has, at least, a moral obligation to ensure that The Mail and Guardian gives The SAJR a right to reply, especially when you consider that The SAJR was publicly criticized by The FXI for not giving Ronnie Kasrils a right to reply to my letter. I have as you can see from my correspondence, written to The FXI about their "double standards" but my email has not even been acknowledged.

Moreover, The SAHRC chose to publicize its findings in a newspaper that has consistently adopted an anti-zionist agenda. As you are well aware, Ronnie Kasrils has himself, over the years, regularly written many anti-zionist articles on its pages. In these particular circumstances, I consider that the SAHRC chose an inappropriate forum to distribute its "hate speech" report.

Perhaps it would also be pertinent for The SAHRC to consider issuing an advisory opinion on a) whether Mr Kasrils's human rights have been violated by a community newspaper refusing to publish his letter and b) whether the rights of the SA public are violated by a minister using a government website to carry out a personal political campaign.

I hope that the above additional points can be raised at your next SAHRC meeting. Please keep me updated with regard to any further developments / responses .

yours sincerely,
Anthony Posner.

On 24 Apr 2007, at 9:46 AM, Karthy Govender wrote:

Dear Mr Posner

I refer to your various e-mails sent to me. I will address the two
central concerns expressed by yourself. As you are aware, the Commission
published its opinion and findings regarding the referral by Mr. R
Kasrils. This is now a public document and is the official response of
the SAHRC. In this opinion we dealt fully with the contentions of the
SAJR and I assume that neither you nor it contend that we misstated the
position of the SAJR on this issue in the official opinion. The official
opinion was sent to the SAJR and is now in the public domain.

Due to space constraints, the piece published in the Mail and Guardian
had to be a summarised and truncated version of the main opinion. The
summarised version focused primarily on the reasoning and the
justification for the Commission's conclusions.

In the summarised version, it is stated that the expression was
characterized as hate speech by Mrs Suzman and the SAJR. We are of the
opinion that this summarised version of the position of the parties in
neither inaccurate nor unfair. In its editorial dated 9th November 2006,
the SAJR indicated that the majority of its readers would deem the
comments made by Mr Kasrils to be hate speech. It decided not to publish
Mr Kasril's letter because it, in the opinion of the SAJR, would be
offensive to the sentiments of the majority of its readers. The tenor
and spirit of the editorial is obviously supportive of the view that the
comments are hate speech. In the circumstances, we are of the view that
stating that the SAJR characterised the comments as hate speech does
not misrepresent the position of the SAHR in this matter.

Secondly, we cannot direct editorial policies of publications. The
decision as to which letters to publish is within the discretion of the
editorial board of the publication concerned. We cannot direct the Mail
and Guardian or the SAJR to publish letters, it chooses not to publish.
If you are of the opinion that the SAJR has been treated unfairly then
you can lodge a complaint with the Press Ombudsman on 011 788 4837.

I will communicate your concerns to the Commission at our meeting later
this week. Should the commission differ with the comments that I have
made, I will relay their response to you.

thank you

Yours faithfully


Karthy Govender



Dear Karthy Govender,

It is evident that The SAJR and The SAHRC do not have equal access to The Mail and Guardian. I feel that the human rights of some South African Jews have been undermined in the process.

Perhaps you could now comment on Ferial Haffajee's refusal to publish Geoff Sifrin's response to your "hate speech" report.

kind regards
ANTHONY POSNER

From: ANTHONY POSNER
Date: 23 April 2007 10:37:37 AM
To: Jane Duncan

Subject: DOUBLE STANDARDS AT THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION INSTITUTE ?

Dear Jane Duncan,

Last week I wrote to you about an item that appeared on the IT'S ALMOST SUPERNATURAL blog entitled "Kasrils misrepresents opponents.." Unfortunately, you did not even acknowledge my email.

Last year The FXI was extremely quick to admonish the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) when it refused to publish a letter from Ronnie Kasrils in which he compared the Israelis to Nazis.

As you are now aware, The Mail and Guardian did not recently publish a letter from the editor of the SAJR in response to the SAHRC"s "hate speech' report. However the editor of The Mail and Guardian has not been publicly criticized/ humiliated by The FXI.

Is The FXI infected by a serious case of double standards? (" a principle or rule applied firmly to one person or group and loosely or not at all to another" Chambers Dictionary)

Kind regards

Anthony Posner



Subject: Fwd: LETTER TO THE M&G EDITOR
Date: 20 April 2007 1:18:22 PM
To: jduncan@fxi.org.za

Dear Jane Duncan,

As you can see I have also referred the matter to Karthy Govender (SAHRC) as he might also be concerned about the way that freedom of expression is being cynically manipulated in South Africa.

Please discuss the issues that have arisen with him, as you must both be both worried that Ferial Haffajee might not be "worth her salt" as a newspaper editor.

VIVAVIVA
ANTHONY POSNER

From: ANTHONY POSNER
Date: 20 April 2007 10:26:59 AM
To: letters@mg.co.za
Subject: LETTER TO THE M&G EDITOR

It has emerged that you didn't publish the letter, written by the editor of The South African Jewish Report regarding Kathy Govender's SAHRC "hate speech" report ! And I thought that the editor of The SAJR had decided not to respond. Instead you published Steven Friedman's "butchering" of The SAJR.
Is The M&G's editorial policy anti-zionist or is it, heaven forbid, just a teeny-weeny anti-semitic ? Please set the record straight.


ANTHONY POSNER




LETTER (UNPUBLISHED) FROM SAJR TO M&G

Karthy Govender’s account (M&G, March 16) of the Human Rights Commission’s stance on Ronnie Kasrils’ statements about Israel contains a serious inaccuracy. The first paragraph says: “His comments were characterised as hate speech by Helen Suzman and by the South African Jewish Report.”

This directly contradicts the stance of the SAJR, conveyed in our submission to the HRC. We stated clearly that we were not accusing Mr Kasrils of hate speech. We declined to publish a particular article of his because we believed it would be odious and offensive to our Jewish readership rather than promoting constructive debate. In our submission to the HRC we say:

“Neither I, nor the South African Jewish Report have accused Mr Kasrils of hate speech…. In its editorials, the SAJR expressed its estimation of how Mr Kasrils’ Nazi analogy would feel to its Jewish readership, based on its knowledge of that readership, which includes Holocaust survivors and the children of Holocaust survivors, and taking into consideration an alarming trend of rising anti-Semitism worldwide….. Other newspapers are obviously free to publish Mr Kasrils’ article and we would defend their legal right to do so.”

The SAJR does not treat lightly the hard-won right to freedom of expression. We gave the reasons for our decisions in our editorials and conducted a vigorous debate in our paper for several weeks about the matter (in which a strongly worded letter from Mr Kasrils was also included).

The SAJR is an independent newspaper. While its readership is primarily Jewish, the Jewish community is diverse and obviously the paper’s views do not automatically coincide with the views of all Jews or Jewish organisations.

Geoff Sifrin Editor SA Jewish Report

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