The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has labelled Pretoria News editor-in-chief Piet Rampedi’s strange story about a woman who allegedly gave birth to ten babies as “one of the lowest points in the history of South African journalism”.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, Sanef said it was now clear that “Rampedi never saw the babies or had proof of their birth, but solely relied on WhatsApp messages between [Gosiame] Sithole and [Teboho] Tsotetsi to report as fact that they were born.
“This is reckless and irresponsible journalism of the highest order.”
Earlier on Tuesday, The family of the so-called babies’ father said that that unless proven otherwise, in their minds, the babies do not exist.
The Tsotetsi family said that he had not yet seen the decuplets, and relied solely on Sithole’s updates of their birth. This came via WhatsApp messages.
Not only has Sanef condemned the story as “reckless and irresponsible journalist of the highest order”, Sanef also slammed Rampedi for blaming the decuplets’ alleged mother, Sithole, claiming that she had disappeared and was not answering to messages sent to her by the decuplets’ alleged father, Teboho Tsotetsi.
“Instead of admitting his lapse of basic journalistic tenets, Rampedi is now blaming Sithole, who needs medical assistance, according to the head of the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.”
Sanef has called on Independent Media management to “urgently institute an independent inquiry, led by an expert in media ethics, to investigate how this story was investigated, reported and responded to by Rampedi and his colleagues.”
“The Press Code is clear that journalists should take the utmost care when reporting on matters involving children. Even though Independent Media is not a signatory of the Press Code, it is clear that all journalistic standards were abandoned with the handling of this story.”
The Press Code, among other practices, states that news must be reported “truthfully, accurately and fairly” – something Sanef said was not upheld by Rampedi, Independent Media or its chairperson, Dr Iqbal Survé.
Rampedi took to Twitter and started asking several questions about the story, saying the story went from “from a feel good story into a full investigation into the whereabouts of babies, where Sithole gave birth, what transpired during & after delivery, why was the family denied access to babies, & who played what role.”
Sithole, meanwhile, responded to the Tsotetsi family statement, denying claims that she was missing, and insisting she did give birth to the babies.
Gosiamo #Sithole responds to the Tsotetsi family statement. She denies she’s missing, and that did not deliver the babies. She says the was released after the Tsotetsis met some politicians. Says they are angry because they wanted to benefit financially from the public donations. pic.twitter.com/YCNs14ezYC
— Mr Putin (@pietrampedi) June 15, 2021
Sithole also said the family only released the statement after they “met some politicians”.
She said the family was angry “because they wanted to benefit financially from the public donations”, Rampedi tweeted on Tuesday night.