The President’s Keepers: Media law’s Muhammad Ali strips down for fight against the Zuptas

The opening bell has sounded in another important battle that will forge the steel of the young democracy.

Yesterday, author Jacques Pauw’s attorney Willem de Klerk rejected demands by the State Security Agency to withdraw The President’s Keepers from circulation. Earlier in the day, retailer Exclusive Books’ CEO Ben Trisk issued a statement refusing to stop selling the massively popular book whose first 20,000 copies passed through his tills in record time.

The legal response to SSA falls short of the one I’ve seen publishers borrow from the famous Arkell v Pressdam case (“F-off. Rude letter to follow”). But not by much. An interpretation of the legalese reads: “Your allegations are vague, irrational and not based on any facts. Send us something that won’t be laughed out of court and we’ll respond more respectfully.”

De Klerk’s website says he has run his small private practise since 1994, focusing on media law, freedom of expression and rights-based issues. He cut his teeth fighting for citizens against the State, defending communities engaged in anti-apartheid activities and helping establish the first public defender’s office in Johannesburg. De Klerk spent many years at Wits University, including a four year stint as director of the Wits Law Clinic. He’s a bit like the Muhammad Ali of media law. Be interesting to see who the other side is sending into the ring. Good luck Zuptas. You’re gonna need it.

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