South Africa’s President Sues Newspaper For Defamation

The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has reportedly filed a defamation lawsuit against South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper over what is considered to be an offensive cartoon.

The cartoon, published in the Sunday Times in 2008, depicts President Zuma with undone trousers, apparently preparing to ‘rape’ a female figure representing justice. The cartoon was published just two years after Zuma was formally acquitted of rape charges, which meant that it caused much controversy in South Africa at the time.

Zuma is now suing South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper in a defamation lawsuit, in which he seeks £440,000 in damages for the degradation, humiliation and damage to reputation the cartoon apparently caused him.

Working within the publishing and journalism industry, the newspaper and the cartoonist are expected to have some form of professional insurance in place to cover damage claims in defamation cases.

The cartoon – created by famous political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro – has been previously found to be “offensive and distasteful” by South Africa’s Human Rights Commission. However, it was not found to constitute hate speech. A statement from the Commission in 2008 read:

“The cartoon is a political expression, published in the public interest, and as such, deserves heightened protection,”

“It has, in fact, stimulated valuable political debate.”

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