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Sanef calls for action against Somizi Mhlongo for insults directed at Sunday World and City Press journalists

Somizi Mhlongo 

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is outraged by the insults that TV personality Somizi “Somgaga” Mhlongo directed at Sunday World acting editor, Kabelo Khumalo, and Julia Madibogo of City Press on Instagram, after they offered him his right of reply on separate stories they were writing last week.

Madibogo of City Press approached the “Idols SA” judge for comment on allegations that he was divorcing his husband, Mohale Motaung-Mhlongo. Khumalo approached him for comment after allegations that the production on his cooking show, “Dinner at Somizi’s”, had been put on hold amidst legal proceedings instituted by Hastings Moeng.

Last year Mhlongo, as well as broadcaster MultiChoice, were issued a summons by Moeng who claimed to have had his intellectual property stolen when Mhlongo launched the popular show.

Moeng claims to have conceived the show’s concept back in 2014 when he reached out to Mhlongo via email and outlined a near-identical pitch to the structure it currently employs, and he has now sought “reasonable compensation” with 15% interest on the amount decided.

Instead of responding to the questions raised, Mhlongo opted to insult Khumalo and his parents, calling them obscene names and abused Madibogo. Mhlongo further took a screengrab of the text of his conversation with both journalists and used his Instagram account to reveal the text and cellphone numbers of the journalists. We believe this is irresponsible in the extreme and potentially unlawful conduct. Mhlongo has a massive support base and a following in excess of almost 4-million on the Instagram social platform and his followers have resorted to intimidation and harassment of journalists on all social media platforms. They have subjected both Madibogo and Khumalo to torrents of insults and threats.

Some have directly threatened Madibogo and Khumalo’s wife with rape while Khumalo received threats to his life. The fans also threatened the safety of the journalists’ families. They have tormented them for doing their jobs and asking questions in line with the Press Code that demands of journalists to give a right of reply to everyone they intend to write stories about.

Although Mhlongo has since deleted the posts from his Instagram account, the journalists continue to be abused. His cyber trolls have amplified the ongoing attacks on women journalists.

His actions have aggravated what is already a hostile working environment, especially for women journalists. This is a direct attack on media freedom in the country. Worldwide similar attacks are being meted out on journalists with the intent to silence their voices, especially that of women and the stories they tell.

SANEF calls on Mhlongo to unreservedly apologise to these journalists and the public on all his social platforms for his unbecoming behaviour. He must call on his followers to stop harassing and intimidating them. Further, we call on the journalists to lay charges of intimidation and for MultiChoice to officially distance themselves from Mhlongo’s comments.

SANEF reiterates its call on the journalism industry to urgently ensure the safety of journalists, especially women reporters, and to note that support is needed to address online attacks.

 Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

For more information please contact:

Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Chairperson (073) 404-1415

Adriaan Basson – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 562-2113

Mahlatse Mahlase – Secretary General (083) 399-2852

Nwabisa Makunga – Treasurer (082) 555-1972

Mary Papayya – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957

Chiara Carter – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (082) 659-9162

Katy Katopodis – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (082) 805-7022

Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334

Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610 9374

Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: admin@sanef.org.za  Website: www.sanef.org.za

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