EWN journalist Barry Bateman would have to be charged according to the broadcaster’s disciplinary code if it took action against him after being caught on camera calling EFF leader Julius Malema 'a poes', a labour lawyer said yesterday, according to Times Select.

Verlie Oosthuizen, a partner in the employment law department at Shepstone & Wylie, reportedly said employers should take caution not to overreact when faced with a public outcry.

Bateman was taken off the air and EWN apologised to Malema after his faux pas at an impromptu press briefing outside the Hawks’ offices in Silverton, Pretoria.

Oosthuizen said EWN would need to use its own code of conduct as a basis for any disciplinary action.

­‘Does the EWN code prohibit bad language? Does this mean that journalists will be policed for comments muttered under their breath? He could possibly argue: “Where does it say in the employee code: I can’t swear?’’.’

She warned that companies acting prematurely had lost cases in the past. Oosthuizen referred to M-Net, which dismissed Gareth Cliff from reality show Idols following an outcry on social media about his comments on Penny Sparrow.

The broadcaster lost the court case.

Cliff, after Sparrow had called black beachgoers monkeys, tweeted: ‘People really don’t understand free speech at all.’ After he was fired, the High Court in Johannesburg ordered that he be reinstated as a judge.

Full Times Select report (subscription needed)