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As the informers to the masses, media houses around South Africa have an unspoken oath; to uphold the truth and provide readers with informative, unbiased content. However, the media industry is currently facing challenges, threatening to tarnish its very integrity. This follows allegations of bribery and falsifying information.
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) wants the Zondo Commission to divulge journalists’ names whom the country’s intelligence agency allegedly paid in return for positive news reports on former President Jacob Zuma.
In a statement, the forum explained a significant point of discussion in their first council meeting was on the recent allegations of journalists being used as spies; their duties to further the agenda of the State Security Agency (SSA).
SANEF expounds, “Members again noted the admission of African News Agency (ANA) CEO Vasantha Angamuthu that they accepted money from the State Security Agency (SSA) to “provide multi-media training for SSA analysts and interns across Africa” and to carry positive stories about South Africa and the Government.”
According to SANEF, Angamuthu’s admission comes after Dr Sydney Mufamadi’s testimony before the State Capture Commission of Inquiry. During his testimony, Mufamadi told the commission that the intelligence agency paid approximately R20 million to ANA. The purpose of this money was to influence the national news narrative to counter the negative publicity surrounding Zuma’s government.
The forum now wants the relevant authorities to investigate all the Zondo Commission’s claims and make their findings public—thereby naming other journalists and media houses involved.
It further expressed concern over Independent Media’s decision to launch its own Press Council. “This amounts to Independent Media being a player and referee in complaints against the group’s titles.”
Adding fuel to the fire, SANEF also expressed its disappointment by the ethical breaches made by investigative journalist Jacques Pauw in his opinion piece, published by the Daily Maverick on 12 February 2021.
SANEF says this development highlights the bitter struggles of integrity and ethics the media is contending with.
Pauw’s opinion piece revolved around his alleged arrest and detention by the police at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. In his article, he wrote that he was both stunned and dazed when the police pounced him, before arresting, jailing and charging him with theft. He further claimed the police mistreated him and stole his money.
After obtaining CCTV footage and receiving information on the original column’s factual inaccuracies, the Daily Maverick has retracted the column, as has Pauw.
With SANEF sharing its concerns, not only does such behaviour bring the integrity of the hard-working media industry into question, but actions such as these also damage the public’s right to credible information. It is a matter of grave concern, which must be addressed.
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