The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said today it noted “with deep concern” that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had again taken the media to task for publishing testimony that had not yet been publicly presented before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Earlier today, Zondo reprimanded the media for publishing the contents of the affidavit of former Bosasa chief operations officer turned whistleblower, Angelo Agrizzi, saying that there was “absolutely no public interest” in revealing the details, which would be made public soon.
Sunday newspapers reported extensively on Agrizzi’s affidavit, which revealed that he would implicate high-ranking government officials in allegations of graft.
Zondo said this was in contravention of the commission’s regulation 11.
He that there was no public interest in publishing the contents of Agrizzi’s affidavit before they were presented to the commission. The nation must know that journalists who did so were not serving the public interest but their own interests and were motivated by a “scoop” or profits, he said. “It undermines the work of this commission.”
In its statement released this evening, Sanef – a body representing senior journalists and editors of newspapers, broadcast and digital platforms – said it was never consulted on the regulations and had immediately made contact with the commission and telephonically outlined its objections when they were first distributed last year.
“A meeting that was planned for the first day of the inquiry never went ahead despite Sanef representatives availing themselves for the set time. When Judge Zondo made similar statements lambasting the media for reporting on evidence yet to be publicly presented to the commission in November 2018, we again wrote to the secretariat asking for a meeting,” it said.
“Sanef believes that in principle the media and the public have the right to access documents submitted to the commission and that the media has the right to publish such documents. Given this background and context we believe that certain regulations of the commission must be reviewed – in particular regulations 11(3) and 12(2) (c).”
Sanef said it believed that the regulations criminalised journalism and it had raised this issue with the commission.
“We were under the impression that following our engagement the regulations were under review and we would be consulted on a way forward. We would appreciate an opportunity to give further input on why we believe these sections should either be scrapped in their entirety or exempt journalists.”
It also said it was not opposed to taking the issue to court, if necessary.
Zondo urged the media to cooperate with the work of the commission as it was a “national task”, adding that the commission supported media freedom.
– African News Agency (ANA)