The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) on Tuesday said it was greatly concerned about the dismissal – without a hearing – of Steven Motale the Editor of The Citizen.
The announcement of Motale’s sacking was made by the newspaper on Tuesday. He had been suspended earlier in November pending the outcome of an internal disciplinary process.
Sanef said it was were shocked to learn that Motale was dismissed without a hearing.
“According to an internal memorandum sent to The Citizen’s staff and an announcement published in the paper, Mr Motale was accused of failing to ‘follow agreed-upon editorial procedures and to uphold his editorial duties’ and that this led to an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship of trust and confidence between the editor and the publisher of the newspaper,” said Sanef spokesperson Sam Mkokeli in a statement.
“Motale claims he has had to contend with improper managerial interference in editorial affairs, including news content and processes to hire journalists.”
Mkokeli said Sanef had noted that the publisher of The Citizen, Eureka Zandberg, had denied that the content of stories published in the paper were at issue, and they strongly condemned the lack of transparency around Motale’s axing.
“We are seeking an urgent meeting with the publishers of The Citizen to express our concerns. Sanef is also deeply concerned about recent reports of a high turnover of editorial staff following allegations of improper management interference in the editorial conduct of newspapers,” Sanef said.
“Such interference is a threat to the freedom and independence of editors and editorial staff and media values which constitute a vital cornerstone to the country’s democracy.”
Mkokeli said Sanef believed that the termination of service should at all times follow proper procedures, which include internal processes. He said failure to do so could lead to the matter being taken to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and the Labour Court.
“The decision of The Citizen senior management to seemingly abort the internal hearings is worrying and Sanef calls on the company to rethink its decision and hold the inquiry,” Mkokeli said.
“Failing that, Motale is within his rights to challenge the dismissal in accordance with the laws of this country. Sanef will support our member in any way possible.”
– African News Agency