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SANEF notes report about reckless, irresponsible journalism at Pretoria News following publication of decuplets

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The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) notes the findings made by Advocate Michael Donen that Pretoria News editor, Piet Rampedi, was reckless when he published an article stating as fact that a woman had given birth to ten babies, without any evidence.

Donen investigated whether Rampedi followed due diligence when working on the story about the alleged birth of the decuplets and if there were any ethical breaches in the reporting of the story by other Independent Media publications/platforms. At the time, Rampedi reported that the woman had given birth to decuplets – breaking the Guinness World Record.

Donen found that at the time of publication there was no evidence that the woman had given birth to ten babies.

“Due to the fact that the birth of decuplets is unknown in human history, I concluded that to publish a story saying the decuplets were born and that the Guinness book of world record was broken without corroboration was reckless. The only evidence that existed at the time was a report that had been made by the alleged father and he had said that his wife had told him that she gave birth to decuplets. I regard that according to journalistic standards as reckless and that would be so regardless of whether the current inquiry proves that,” Donen said.

Independent Media launched the investigation after SANEF called for an independent inquiry. SANEF will always stand for ethical journalism and the practising of credible journalism across newsrooms.

The news story was a clear case of a gross lapse of ethical journalism that has done untold damage to the profession at a time when we are focused on rebuilding the trust relationship with the public.

The cardinal principle in journalism is to get the facts right the first time by ensuring that all the information is corroborated by more than one source. When the information cannot be corroborated, we owe it to our audiences to be transparent and inform them accordingly.

SANEF again calls on Independent Media to rejoin the Press Council of SA, so that the company’s publications can be held to the same industry-accepted rules, as other media companies. The Press Council allows for all media houses to be held accountable when they act in breach of the Press Code and fail to practise ethical journalism.

It also allows for those aggrieved to be able to complain before an independent panel. We hope Independent Media will reflect on the treatment of the story and ensure that all subsequent stories are backed up by real evidence and credible sources. We hope that they will also review their internal systems to ensure all stories are subjected to rigorous checks before publication.

SANEF has also noted subsequent claims made by Independent Media, again without evidence. They make serious allegations of a “cover-up” involving politicians, medical professionals, and hospitals. We hope the promised ten-part documentary will see them abide by world accepted journalistic standards to provide evidence to all allegations.

As an organisation – charged with the responsibility to champion media freedom and promote ethical journalism – we have confined our comments to the part of the report that deals with journalism and do not in any way vouch for other unverified claims made, during the release of the report.

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

Asanda Ngoasheng – Western Cape Convenor – 082 610-9374

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @SAEditorsForum

Email: [email protected] Website: www.sanef.org.za