Sanef Council Media Statement 9 November 2014
The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) held its last Council for 2014 in Durban on Saturday. Council is the highest decision making structure between annual general meetings. The successful meeting debated a number of issues with regard to the state of the changing media landscape in our country and beyond.
STATE OF THE MEDIA
Council has noted with concern the seismic challenges taking place in the media industry which has seen an unprecedented loss of journalism jobs. Sanef is concerned about the possible long term impact this might have on the quality of journalism and compromise the role of the media to provide credible and reliable information to the public as envisaged in the Constitution.
MEETING WITH PRESIDENCY AND CABINET MEMBERS
Council finalised preparations for the scheduled annual meeting between SANEF and cabinet led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. The meeting takes place on Saturday November 15. SANEF remains committed to constructive engagement with government and will use the meeting to share perspectives about the changes taking place in the media environment and what role government can play in ensuring the continued flow of information to the public.
Etv News and ENCA
Council has noted developments regarding allegations of editorial interference at the ENCA implicating politicians, shareholders and senior executives. Council welcomed the decision by eTV and ENCA news division to launch a review of the channel’s editorial management practices to safeguard editorial independence and credibility of news coverage. We look forward to the outcome of the review.
Council noted the recommendations submitted to the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga by a commission tasked to look at norms and standards to stop the release of Matric results in newspapers. Sanef will this week write to the minister to request her not to halt the publication of the results. We believe no scientific correlation has been established between the publication of the results and the alleged adverse effects cited in the recommendation submitted to the minister. The release of the matric results remains one of the most important events in the country’s education calendar. Publication of the results in newspapers contributes to transparency, excitement and debates. It also helps family members of candidates to access results even when they are far from schools and without digital access.
PARLIAMENT BROADCAST FEED
Council has once again raised concerns about the conduct of parliamentary officials responsible for the supply of broadcast feed of National Assembly sittings. During a sitting last week the officials didn’t make available all the feed showing the conduct of EFF members when the Speaker was calling them to order. The partial distribution of feed has a direct negative impact on the dissemination of balanced news reports and analysis. It deprives the public full access to the proceedings of the legislature.
Council also noted, with concern, that several members of the media were prevented from entering the National Council of Provinces earlier this week while President Jacob Zuma was delivering his annual address to the Council.
We have previously voiced our concerns to Parliament’s presiding officers following the deliberate intermittent termination of sound after a sitting of the National Assembly had degenerated into chaos. We are concerned that the parliamentary officials responsible for the broadcast feed are increasingly usurping the role of editors who should decide what their television networks should broadcast. To this end, council has resolved to request parliament a meeting with parliament’s presiding officers to find solutions to these problems.
Council is dismayed by the failure of Eskom management to condemn and institute disciplinary proceedings against employees who illegally detained Beeld journalists covering the collapse of the silo that resulted in load shedding. The story was clearly in the public interest. The Eskom employees went to the extent of erasing from the journalists’ camera photographs taken at Majuba power station. Eskom management has so far ignored demands by Beeld lawyers to apologise for the unnecessary and illegal action of Eskom employees. Council urges Eskom to distance itself from such illegal actions that impede media’s right to report freely on matters of national importance.
SWAZILAND AND BOTSWANA
Council resolved to intensify the campaign for the release of journalist and editor Bheki Makhubu. Efforts to seek audience with Swaziland High Commissioner to South Africa will be renewed. Council appeals to Swazi authorities to review their decision to imprison Makhubu and other human rights activists. The South African government should also speak out against the violation of African Union protocols on human rights and media freedom by the Swazi Kingdom.
Council also noted that Outse Mokone, the editor of The Standard in Botswana is expected to appear in court this month after his newspaper published a story alleging the Botswana government tried to conceal details of a car crash involving President Ian Khama.
Council expressed it’s dismay at the arrest and prosecution of Mokone.
NEW DEPUTY CHAIRPERSON
Daily Dispatch Editor Bongani Siqoko was elected deputy chairman of Sanef following the resignation of Makhudu Sefara. Siqoko has been editor since June last year. Prior to that he was the paper’s deputy editor for six years. He holds an MA in International Journalism from City University in London.