In the High Court, Gaut­eng Local Divi­sion Johan­nes­burg, today, judg­ment was handed down in Boy­cott. Divest­ment. Sanc­tions. South Africa and Sweet­works Adver­tis­ing Agency v Con­ti­nen­tal Out­door Media (Pty) Ltd, the City of Johan­nes­burg and the Adver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity. The judge found the actions of Con­ti­nen­tal Media uncon­sti­tu­tional and unlaw­ful. As rep­re­sen­ta­tives of BDS South Africa and Sweet­works, the LRC wel­comes the judg­ment.


As noted in the pre­vi­ous press release, the mat­ter involves a con­trac­tual dis­pute cen­tred on the right to free­dom of expres­sion. The dis­pute arose when Con­ti­nen­tal Out­door Media removed a BDS South Africa bill­board adver­tise­ment prior to the expi­ra­tion of the agreed flight­ing period, with­out notice or con­sul­ta­tion with BDS SA and Sweet­works. Con­ti­nen­tal con­tended that it was enti­tled to remove the bill­board as the advert was con­tentious and con­tro­ver­sial and, there­fore, not com­pli­ant with the rental agree­ment, the Out­door Adver­tis­ing Bylaws if the City of Johan­nes­burg and/or the Adver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity Code of Con­duct (ASA Code).


The LRC argued that the removal of the bill­board was uncon­sti­tu­tional and unlaw­ful as it is in breach of Sec­tion 16 of the Con­sti­tu­tion which pro­vides for free­dom of expres­sion. We also argued that the rel­e­vant sec­tion of the by-law of the City of Johan­nes­burg, which does not allow adver­tis­ing that is “insen­si­tive to the pub­lic, or any por­tion thereof, or to any reli­gious or cul­tural group”, is uncon­sti­tu­tional in that it goes beyond the con­sti­tu­tional lim­i­ta­tions of free speech by set­ting a lower bar than the Con­sti­tu­tion allows.


The judge found the removal of the bill­boards to be uncon­sti­tu­tional and unlaw­ful and ordered Con­ti­nen­tal Out­door Media to, within 10 days, rein­state the bill­boards for an unin­ter­rupted period of 30 days. The judge fur­ther found that the rel­e­vant adver­tis­ing by-laws of the City of Johan­nes­burg are uncon­sti­tu­tional and gave the City a year in which to amend them.