SANEF perturbed about developments at eNCA

Anchors Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton taken off air after apologising for raising their views about govt's cigarette ban


8 May 2020

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is perturbed about developments at eNCA where news anchors Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton were taken off air after apologising for raising their views about the government's cigarette ban.

On Monday, Mngambi and Dutton criticised the government's handling of the ban. After receiving critical feedback from viewers and the public, they went on air to apologise for their comments on Tuesday morning. From Wednesday, they were no longer hosting the morning show on eNCA.

There has been no public explanation for their absence.

SANEF understands that a few months ago the eNCA management introduced a requirement for its anchors to be more opinionated and to open their shows on social and political issues. So it seems that when Mngambi and Dutton aired their comments they were not violating any internal policy.

SANEF is deeply concerned about the potential undermining of freedom of expression at eNCA. Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of the South African Constitution and enshrined in Section 16. We remind the channel's management of former president Nelson Mandela's statement that a "critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy", a view with which we fully agree.

Issues regarding news versus comment often given rise to a great deal of unhappiness with the media. We think it important to reiterate key provisions of the BCCSA Code of Conduct applicable to eNCA. Section 28.1.3 of the Subscription Code clearly requires that “only that which may reasonably be true… may be presented as fact…If a report is…founded on opinion…it must be presented in such manner as to indicate clearly that such is the case.”

Management’s strategy to include more personalised commentary in the news broadcasts has paved the way for an unfortunate mixing of news and comment in such a way that the reasonable viewer might have been left in doubt as to what was fact and what was the newsreaders’ opinion.

SANEF respects the right of media companies to apply their own editorial guidelines, quality control measures, internal policies and directives, but this should never be at odds with the Constitution and industry codes.

SANEF will write to eNCA acting MD Norman Munzhelele asking for an explanation of why Mngambi and Dutton's have been taken off air. We believe that news management should defend journalists and their freedom of expression.

The incident follows incidents of political interference in the newsroom in December that led to the exit of the previous head of news. We will also be raising these issues in our meeting.

Note to Editors: The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is a non-profit organisation whose members are editors, senior journalists and journalism trainers from all areas of the South African media. We are committed to championing South Africa’s hard-won freedom of expression and promoting quality, ethics and diversity in the South African media. We promote excellence in journalism through fighting for media freedom, writing policy submissions, research and education and training programmes. SANEF is not a union.

Statement issued by SANEF, 8 May 2020