The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said on Tuesday that it reiterates the need for independent and ethical journalism following the termination of the employment of the deputy editor of Sunday Times newspaper, Jan-Jan Joubert, after he was found guilty of gross misconduct.
Joubert faced charges of intentionally and negligently failing to disclose a potential conflict of interest to his editor after he wrote a story about individuals involved in a Democratic Alliance (DA) recruitment process despite having applied for the position himself.
Another charge included the intentional abuse of his professional position, privilege and power as deputy executive editor for parliament, politics and opinion in the Sunday Times by inappropriately sharing confidential information entrusted to him by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with its political opponent, the DA.
Joubert pleaded not guilty to both charges, but the chairperson of his disciplinary hearing found him guilty. His application for leave to appeal was dismissed. The Sunday Times and the Tiso Blackstar Group have announced that they now consider the matter closed.
In a statement, Sanef reiterated the need for independent and ethical journalism, quoting the preamble to the Press Code, which speaks of journalists’ commitment to the highest standards, maintaining credibility and keeping the trust of the public.
Sanef also said that it stands by its position that “editors are the guardians of the highest standards of journalism in their newsrooms and must at all times ensure that journalists do not conduct themselves in a manner that could lead audiences to doubt their political independence”.
“The country is entering an intense period of political campaigning as we prepare for the 2019 elections. Throughout the lead up to the elections, the elections themselves and beyond it is critical that journalists maintain their political independence and report with integrity and without fear or favour,” Sanef said.
“To ensure free and fair elections Sanef will continue to promote the principles of independent, quality, ethical and diverse journalism.”