SANEF reiterates the need for independent and ethical journalism
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has noted the termination of the employment of Sunday Times deputy editor Jan-Jan Joubert after he was found guilty of gross misconduct.
Joubert faced the following charges:
- Intentionally and negligently failing to disclose to the editor of the Sunday Times a potential conflict of interest where his participation in a Democratic Alliance (DA) recruitment process conflicted directly and indirectly with his subsequent writing of a news report involving the party and individuals associated with the process.
- The intentional abuse of his professional position, privilege and power as Deputy Executive Editor: Parliament, Politics and Opinion by inappropriately sharing confidential information entrusted to him by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with its political opponent the DA.
Joubert pleaded not guilty on both charges. However, the chairperson of his disciplinary found otherwise and declared him guilty. On 23 January 2018 Joubert submitted an application for leave to appeal. The appeal was dismissed. The Sunday Times and the Tiso Blackstar Group have announced that they now consider the matter closed.
In light of this case, SANEF would like to reiterate the need for independent and ethical journalism. SANEF notes the important words in the preamble to the Press Code. The code states: “As journalists we commit ourselves to the highest standards, to maintain credibility and keep the trust of the public. This means always … acting independently.”
In a statement released on 15 February 2014 in the wake of the Brendan Boyle/ Donwald Pressly controversy, SANEF put forward an unambiguous position in relation to conflicted journalists:
“…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. There is a need to make newsrooms aware of potential conflict of interests that may arise from time to time – be they political or commercial.”
SANEF stands by this position.
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. To ensure free and fair elections SANEF will continue to promote the principles of independent, quality, ethical and diverse journalism.
For more information please contact:
Statement issued by Kate Skinner, SANEF Executive Director, 13 March 2018