A WhatsApp message aiming to discredit a front-page story in The Sunday Times, which was dismissed by many as being faked, was widely shared over the weekend.
The message claims to be written by a journalist, Farida Joyce, who claims to have worked at The Sunday Times since “the closure of The New Age”. Afro Voice, formerly the Gupta-owned The New Age before changing names under the ownership of Afrotone Media Holdings chairperson Mzwanele Manyi, filed for liquidation in July 2018.
The message goes on to claim that The Sunday Times instituted a disciplinary procedure against the journalist for refusing to link her story on former Bosasa COO-turned whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi, to Jacob Zuma.
It also says she was told by The Sunday Times to “create a link” between Agrizzi’s testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture and Zuma as well as Dudu Myeni, Nomvula Mokonyane, and Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
“I will be fired for refusing to lie about Dudu Myeni, Nomvula Mokonyane, and Hlaudi Motshoeneng [sic]. That is the Sunday Times I work for, that is the media in 2019,” the message begins. It misspells not only former SABC COO Motsoeneng’s name, but also refers to Agrizzi as “Agrizzy”.
The message was accompanied by a cellphone number, which went to voicemail when called. The Citizen left a message and will continue to try and make contact.
Curiously, while the story which graced The Sunday Times’ front page over the weekend did link Agrizzi to Zuma, who it alleged received R300,000 monthly payments from Bosasa to avoid prosecution over other bribes it had paid, and also mentions Myeni and Mokonyane as having been “showered with expensive gifts”, there is no mention of Motsoeneng.
@SundayTimesZA is aware of the hoax Whatsapp being circulated that claims a reporter was suspended for refusing to write a 'fabricated' front page article. For the record @FaridaJoyce has never been employed by the Sunday Times (which she confirms) & no such directive was given https://t.co/w3fSB9Bjy1
— Sunday Times (@SundayTimesZA) January 20, 2019
The Sunday Times has confirmed on Twitter that the message was fake and that Farida Joyce, whose name the message is in, has never worked at the newspaper.
Joyce, who did once work for The New Age and ANN7, took to Twitter to dismiss the article as “fake news” and note that she’s never worked at The Sunday Times.
She told The Citizen she “doesn’t understand who wrote [the posts] or why I was associated with [them].”
Joyce says she’s currently unemployed and worries about what effect the posts could have on her career.
“For me it’s really sad, I’m still an up-and-coming young journalist and at the moment I’m unemployed so this comes at a really bad time, for my name to be discredited in this way,” she said.
“It’s not good for my career or my future, so it’s been heartbreaking, but I’ve done all I can to clear my name and distance myself from the posts. I am happy to speak to anyone in the media who can help with this. I know the role media platforms can play in [helping]. I have chosen not to dwell on this or focus on the negative energy,” she continued.
Joyce is hoping for her fortunes to take a positive turn. She was retrenched when Afro Worldview (formerly The New Age) was liquidated. She also says she was a victim of the Vila Kasi Holdings scam, which saw an allegedly bogus television channel offer jobs to some of the people who lost their jobs at tv station Afro Worldview and newspaper Afro Voice.
Qaanitah Hunter, the journalist who actually did write this weekend’s The Sunday Times front page story, also took to Twitter to dismiss the message as fake.
Hunter later tweeted in support of Joyce. “Today my heart goes out to Farida Joyce- a young journalist whose name was brought into a cheap attempt to discredit the Sunday Times. Some of us have thicker skins, but I know it cannot be easy for her,” she said.
The message was shared on Twitter, including by popular yet controversial anonymous parody account Man’s Not Barry Roux (@AdvBarryRoux), who has since deleted it.
Guys, that Farida Joyce message is FAKE. I’ve never met or worked with such a person in my life. I wrote the Sunday Times front page.
— Qaanitah|Mzekezeke|Hunter (@QaanitahHunter) January 20, 2019
This article was NOT written by me and I would like to distance myself from the article it's Fake News I have never worked at the @SundayTimesZA someone else has used my name to write lies pic.twitter.com/WmBafRmylt
— Daughter of the King ???? (@FaridaJoyce) January 20, 2019
The fact that she has had to spend so much time confirming, again and again, that this message is fake is astounding, and sad.
People aren’t this gullible, surely? https://t.co/WYFnoe9Ofv
— Karyn Maughan (@karynmaughan) January 20, 2019
Today my heart goes out to Farida Joyce- a young journalists whose name was brought into a cheap attempt to discredit the Sunday Times. Some of us have thicker skins, but I know it cannot be easy for her.
— Qaanitah|Mzekezeke|Hunter (@QaanitahHunter) January 20, 2019
A post that was created in Joyce’s name and uses her picture on Facebook claims that Joyce’s Twitter account is fake and that Joyce did indeed work at The Sunday Times and has payslips to prove it.
Both Joyce and Hunter have taken to Twitter to say that the Facebook post is also fake. This backed-up by the fact that Joyce’s Twitter account, which she used to declare the Facebook post fake, was started in 2012 and has tweeted over 1,700 times, and the Facebook post can no longer be found on the platform.
This Facebook post is fake and fabricated. https://t.co/fd5qFrpBjK
— Qaanitah|Mzekezeke|Hunter (@QaanitahHunter) January 21, 2019
Who do I sue because I don't even know who this person is ????
— Daughter of the King ???? (@FaridaJoyce) January 21, 2019
There is a message doing the rounds from some Farida Joyce who claims to work for the Sunday Times. It’s Bell Pottinger at work. There is no such a person in the Sunday Times newsroom.
— Sibongakonke Shoba (@ushoba) January 20, 2019
Hunter had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Despite the fact that all signs point to both the initial WhatsApp post and later Facebook post being fake, some have believed the initial post.
You should have waited for the commission to do it job but no you so desperate to sell your useless newspaper ???? at all cost mxm… pic.twitter.com/Odblqxq7X5
— Black and Beautiful (@10percentprojct) January 20, 2019
Some even tweeted that, although they accept that it was fake news, they choose to either support whoever wrote it or to accept its message anyway, with one user even calling whoever produced the initial post “patriotic”.
Fake or not we got the message
— official ????????maskandi fan (@gcokama) January 21, 2019
No its fine, we too can play the game.
Whoever did it, is patriotic.
— Socialist Agitator (@leballotvl) January 20, 2019
The way every journalist was at pains to tell us that Farida Joyce doesn’t work for Sunday Times – astounding! Yet they readily retweet lies and write opinion pieces about it when it’s about their least favourite political party or politician.
— Sentletse (@Sentletse) January 20, 2019
This is precisely why #fake news is effective & tactical. It works – confirmation bias. Anon accounts on this platform created for the purpose.
— Ms Debs (@debbieflorence) January 21, 2019
I am not one bit surprised. People have proudly said on here that they no longer read newspapers, watch news but rely on Twitter for info. Others have said they believe anything and everything from a recently exposed parody account because he's their "advovo".????????♀️
— Jesus' Fave???????????? (@lulushezi) January 21, 2019