NEWS & ANALYSIS

Independent inquiry into media ethics making progress – SANEF

Forum encourages all interested organisations and individuals to express their views

Independent inquiry into media ethics and credibility making progress

12 August 2019

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is pleased to announce that its Inquiry into Media Credibility and Ethics is making good progress. Journalists and members of the public have started to engage and make submissions.

On 24 June 2019, SANEF launched an independent Inquiry into Media Credibility and Ethics with a panel of commissioners headed by retired judge Kathleen Satchwell, including panelists, Nikiwe Bikitsha and Rich Mkhondo.

The launch of the Inquiry was triggered by several apologies made by the Sunday Times correcting mistakes over stories such as the so-called “Rogue Unit” and the Cato Manor Death Squad stories. Further, allegations were made at the Zondo Commission by security and prison services company, BOSASA that they had paid journalists to cover the company in a positive light.

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 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.

To further supplement and strengthen this process, we announced, that we would be launching an independent investigation - chaired by a retired judge, with its own offices and researchers - to investigate issues of editorial integrity across the industry.

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 collusions.

The terms of reference

The terms of reference for the Inquiry were crafted to 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 journalist practice;

- 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 practice; and

- For the panel to consult with media companies and owners, political parties, government (at all levels), civil society, editors and journalists and members of the public.

Please find the terms of reference here

SANEF made its first presentation to the Panel on 17 July 2019. Please see a copy here

A call to participate

SANEF is encouraging all interested organisations and individuals to express their views through written submissions to the Panel at [email protected]. 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.

The final deadline for written submissions is 30 November 2019.

The Panel’s recommendations will be presented to a media industry conference for discussion in June 2020 and an industry-wide action plan will be adopted. SANEF hopes that this action plan will go a long way to rebuilding trust in our industry.

Issued by Hopewell Radebe, Acting Project Manager and Office Administrator, South African National Editors’ Forum, 12 August 2019