31 July 2023
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has, over the past week, observed two incidents that demonstrate attempts to trample on media freedom.
In one case a court is being used to try and gag a media house and, on another matter, a journalist was denied accreditation, without any valid reasoning being provided.
Attempted gag on News24
On the court case, which SANEF will closely observe, News24 will be facing off against Mike Maile and Bridgman Sithole, two allies of the Deputy President, Paul Mashatile.
The two want the court to stop News24 from using the term “Alex Mafia”, in reference to them. SANEF finds this case ridiculous given that this term has been ubiquitously used for a number of years – to refer to those who, like Mashatile, originate from Alexandra township in Johannesburg and are connected to the Deputy President through business or political links. Mashatile is not only a public figure but also the second citizen of the country and so his dealings are a matter of public interest. The public has a right to know who the Deputy President associates with and how they influence him and/or vice versa.
The media and the political commentariat constantly refer to influential businesspeople who live in Stellenbosch as the “Stellenbosch Mafia”. This is all part of “protected comment” which is acceptable under the Code of Ethics and Conduct for Print and Online Media in South Africa.
To gag the news organisation would be tantamount to trampling on media freedom.
Russia’s gag on Daily Maverick
The decision by Russia to revoke the accreditation of Daily Maverick’s correspondent Peter Fabricius is illogical and a flagrant abuse of authority. Fabricius was packed up and ready to fly to St Petersburg for the Russia-Africa summit last week, only to find out the day before departure that his accreditation had been rescinded. No explanation has been forthcoming to date.
SANEF has learned that when Daily Maverick requested the Organising Committee to reconsider the decision to revoke his accreditation, it was told that “revision is not possible.”
What SANEF finds ridiculous is that Fabricius earlier received his accreditation on July 18, 2023, to cover the summit over 27 and 28 July.
Fabricius is a respected veteran journalist and foreign affairs expert who covered the inaugural summit in 2019 in Sochi.
These trips are not only costly for media houses, but independent coverage of the event was of public interest and of particular importance to South Africa given President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attendance.
SANEF aligns itself with the International Press Institute which pointed out that the summit “takes place amid the collapse of the grain deal between Russia and Ukraine, is of immense international public interest, in particular, given its impact on Africa. The revocation of Fabricius’s accreditation is an unacceptable limitation on the public’s right to receive information from diverse sources on this event.”
SANEF has noted the complaint to the Press Ombudsman, lodged against Daily Maverick by the Russian Embassy. This is in relation to a demand for a right of reply to an opinion piece penned by the Ukrainian ambassador.
The revocation of Fabricius’ accreditation follows the recent unfortunate event where South African journalists were ill-treated and stuck on a plane in Poland and could not report on the African Peace Mission to Russia and Ukraine. SANEF will soon be meeting Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, the Minister in the Presidency, to discuss this issue, among others.
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
Qaanitah Hunter – SANEF Secretary-General
Tshamano Makhadi – Treasurer-General (082) 223 0621
Makhudu Sefara – SANEF Media Freedom Chair (079) 177-2134
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334
Dr. Glenda Daniels – SANEF Gauteng Convenor (083) 229-9708
Rochelle De Kock – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (072) 969-8028
Reggy Moalusi – SANEF Executive Director (071) 682-3695
Email: [email protected]