The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) welcomes and endorses the launch of the Real411 platform together with Media Monitoring Africa and a range of partner organisations, as a mechanism for members of the public to report concerns of disinformation to be assessed and verified.
SANEF trusts in the integrity of the platform. It was originally launched as a joint initiative with the Independent Electoral Commission during the 2019 general elections in South Africa where it played an important role to counteract disinformation. The platform was then relaunched earlier this year to address misinformation and disinformation beyond the election period.
With the rise in the spread of disinformation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, SANEF believes that such a platform presents a unique and important opportunity to address disinformation in an open and transparent manner.
On April 15, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies announced that it would be collaborating with Real411 to curb the spread of disinformation pertaining to the pandemic.
SANEF believes that the Real411 initiative is significant for various reasons.
First, rather than housing the complaints portal within the security services — which could have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression — it is run by a civil society organisation that has a strong history of protecting and promoting free speech.
Second, it brings together voluntary reviewers with established technical, media and legal expertise to ensure that the findings are properly informed by all relevant facts and a number of expert perspectives.
Third, it emphasises the need for transparency and accountability and seeks to deal with all complaints in a manner that is reasonable and justifiable.
Lastly, Real411 has an appeals process that is led by former acting Deputy Chief Justice, Zak Yacoob.
SANEF notes that all findings made and decisions taken by the platform are made available to the government. The government then makes decisions in light of these findings.
SANEF hopes that the South African media will promote the Real411 Portal as a means of combating the spread of “fake news” and assisting the public to report false Whatsapp text and voice messages including videos as well as other suspicious and “dodgy” social media posts.
(The Real411 portal does not deal with media complaints. Any media complaint received by the platform is immediately forwarded to the relevant self-regulatory authority such as the Press Ombud or Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.)
We believe that misinformation on the virus is getting out of control with very dangerous consequences for our society – including the spreading of unnecessary panic and the ultimate undermining of our collective efforts to contain the virus.
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:
Mahlatse Mahlase – SANEF Chairperson, (083) 399-2852
Katy Katopodis – Acting SANEF Chairperson, (082) 805-7022
Moipone Malefane – SANEF Secretary-General (082) 772-5861
Mary Papayya – Acting SANEF Media Freedom Chair (082) 379-4957
Sbu Ngalwa – SANEF Eastern Cape Convenor (073) 404-1415
Janet Heard – SANEF Western Cape SANEF Convenor (078) 041-9528
Hopewell Radebe – SANEF Acting Gauteng Regional Convenor (083) 582-1734
Judy Sandison – SANEF KZN Convenor (082) 571-3334
Kate Skinner – SANEF Executive Director – (082) 926-6404