2nd Floor, 20 Baker Street, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2169

SANEF holds a successful workshop on why disinformation destroys democracy

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Mr Sy Mamabolo, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) at the IEC addresses the workshop; photo by Dzudzie Faith Netshisaulu

24 January 2024

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) held its first event of the year at its new offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg on 23 January 2024 in partnership with Media Monitoring Africa.

The workshop on elections, social media, and disinformation was attended by representatives of the IEC, Press Council, Africa Check, media academia, lawyers the Human Rights Commission, Digital Forensics Lab, journalists, and editors from different publications, including the SABC.

The aim of the workshop was for the media to be prepared for election misinformation, disinformation as well as intimidation and to identify information held by social media platforms that can assist in mitigating these risks.

According to a UNESCO/Ipsos survey done in 16 countries including South Africa, 91% of the respondents think that during election campaigns, social media platforms should take an active role in combatting disinformation and “fake news”; and 89% think that during election campaigns, the government and regulators should take an active role in combatting online disinformation and “fake news”.

The workshop was moderated by veteran SANEF member, Professor Guy Berger, who led a risk assessment exercise with the ultimate objective of holding big tech accountable and ensuring the media is free to operate and report freely and fairly.

The workshop agreed that a message needs to be sent to political parties who bully journalists and to big tech that civil society is watching them on social media for bullying narratives and for not taking down online hatred quickly.

Fact-checking organisations are crucially important currently – there are about 15 on the continent and Africa Check has offered to assist South African media to quickly check facts in this election period.

The workshop identified the following potential election-related online risks:

  • Silencing voices by intimidation
  • Attacks on journalists/Incitement via social media
  • Disinformation on elections
  • Manipulated media
  • Attacks on election integrity
  • Hacking of IEC pages/posts
  • Gendered bullying/threats of rape and murder of women journalists
  • Promoting distrust in the electoral process.

Some of the ideas discussed include getting media lawyers on standby to approach the electoral court as soon as a problem is reported by a journalist of intimidation, bullying, cyber-misogyny, and other conduct endangering freedom of media and freedom of expression.

SANEF also proposed that tech platforms use news produced by credible media to counter fake news on their platforms; and encouraged the Human Rights Commission to publicise their social media Charter to guide the public on the responsible use of social media and legal remedies when their rights are violated.

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 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

Nwabisa Makunga – SANEF Deputy Chairperson (082) 555-1972

Dr. Glenda Daniels – SANEF Acting Secretary-General 083) 229-9708

Tshamano Makhadi – Treasurer-General (082) 223 0621

Makhudu Sefara – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (079) 177-2134

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

Heather Robertson – SANEF Acting Gauteng Convenor (083) 308 5618

Rochelle De Kock – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (072) 969-8028

Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.sanef.org.za