The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) welcomes the announcement by Independent Media chairperson Iqbal Survé that an independent panel will be set-up to scrutinise the handling of the so-called Tembisa decuplets story by the Pretoria News and its editor, Piet Rampedi.
Last week, SANEF called on Independent Media, who is no longer a signatory to the Press Code of SA, to initiate an independent investigation into the story.
We are disappointed by the continued defence of a clear case of a lapse of ethical journalism by Survé and Rampedi. But we believe that an independent investigation into the story is the correct approach.
We call on Survé to ensure the independent panel is independent in every sense of the word and will consist of recognised experts on media ethics and media law.
We further note the latest missive penned by Rampedi following the announcement by the Gauteng provincial government to litigate against him and his employer, Independent Media.
Rampedi has steadfastly refused to back down, and insists on defending a fictitious, embarrassing tale despite factual developments proving to the contrary. Even after a medical investigation by provincial authorities revealed the woman in question was never pregnant, Rampedi continues to claim he has evidence that she was pregnant and had given birth to the 10 babies. Strangely he refuses to release this “evidence”.
As a matter of principle SANEF is concerned about the precedent that the pending lawsuit by a provincial government against a media company would set. If replicated elsewhere it could have dire consequences for small media companies and publishers who would – unlike Independent Media – not have deep pockets to defend themselves. It could also be abused to force smaller media outlets into silence or to self-sensor.
SANEF understands the provincial government’s frustration with Independent Media’s failure to admit its glaring errors in all the articles published concerning the so-called ‘Tembisa 10’.
Compounding the issue is the fact that Independent Media opted out of the industry-accepted self regulation and co-regulation mechanism through the Press Council of SA.
This means that the provincial government or any member of the public cannot complain to the Press Ombudsman as the latter office deals with complaints against members of the Press Council of SA. Basically the provincial government has no other independent body to complain to, regarding the serious accusations levelled against them by Independent Media.
This is why we have long argued for Independent Media to abide by the industry-wide rules and subject themselves to the same level of scrutiny as other media houses do.
SANEF has always been clear in its support of the Press Council of SA, and we firmly believe that those who breach the Press Code of SA and fail to practise ethical journalism, should subject themselves to the scrutiny of the Ombudsman.
Instituting legal action against a media house should always be the last avenue for an aggrieved complainant. We would again encourage Independent Media to rejoin the Press Council of SA and abide by the Press Code of SA and not be a law unto themselves.
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
Email: [email protected]