Sanef invites submissions for inquiry into media credibility, ethics

Julius Malema is seen leaving the Pretoria High Court during a lunch break in the case of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in its matter against the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), 6 August 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Julius Malema is seen leaving the Pretoria High Court during a lunch break in the case of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in its matter against the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), 6 August 2019, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The panel’s recommendations will be presented for discussion in June 2020 and an industry-wide action plan is expected to be adopted.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) is inviting submissions to its inquiry into media credibility and ethics.

“Sanef is encouraging all interested organisations and individuals to express their views through written submissions to the panel at panel@mediainquiry.co.za,” the forum said.

“The panelists will analyse the submissions and, if they feel it is necessary, will call on members of the public and organisations to make further written and/or oral submissions.”

In an update into the inquiry’s work on Monday, it said it was making good progress with journalists and members of the public making submissions.

The independent inquiry was launched on June 24, with a panel of commissioners headed by retired judge Kathleen Satchwell and panelists Nikiwe Bikitsha and Rich Mkhondo.

It was triggered by several apologies made by the Sunday Times over its “rogue unit” and “Cato Manor death squad” stories.

Allegations were also made at the Zondo commission that security and prison services company Bosasa, now African Global Operations, had paid journalists to cover the company in a positive light.

Conveners of the prestigious Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism had also withdrawn awards given to three Sunday Times journalists for their Cato Manor killing reports due to elements of the story being called into question, News24 previously reported.

“Sanef welcomed the apologies made by the Sunday Times, but we felt that this was just the first step in rebuilding and regaining the public’s trust.

“We stated that we saw this as a moment for the newspaper – but also for all media houses – to seriously introspect and review editorial systems and practices to enhance media ethics and credibility.”

This has led to an independent investigation being launched.

“Sanef believes the inquiry is taking place against a broader backdrop of state capture in South Africa, with the media industry not being immune from being drawn into manipulative practices and collusion,” it said in a statement.

The terms of reference for the inquiry include:

  • An investigation into ethical breaches on the part of the media industry in South Africa including obstacles to accountable and credible media practice in a democratic environment;
  • For the panel to consider the occasion, nature, identity, reasons and impetus of such breaches as well as solutions to the current problems confronting professional and ethical journalistic practices;
  • For the panelists to investigate the content and implementation of various editorial codes in South Africa and internationally in contributing to professional and ethical journalistic practices;
  • For the panel to consult with media companies and owners, political parties, the government, civil society, editors and journalists and members of the public.

Sanef made its first presentation to the panel on July 17, in which it noted there had been complaints to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa and the Press Council regarding ethical and conduct breaches by the media across the industry.

It also noted the difficulties faced in a changing media environment, where publications battle it out for advertising revenue or funding, amid waves of retrenchments. Journalists were often working in hostile or dangerous environments, and were suffering from anxiety and even post traumatic stress disorder.

These issues and more are expected to be analysed by the panel.

The deadline for written submissions is November 30.

The panel’s recommendations will be presented for discussion in June 2020 and an industry wide action plan is expected to be adopted.

“Sanef hopes this action plan will go a long way to rebuilding trust in our industry.”

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