The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has called on the media industry to do introspection as recent events have suggested that it has a lot to do to ensure that the democracy dream is realised.
Sanef chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said in the light of unethical conduct by some journalists and moves to weaken the media through state capture, the industry needed to take this moment to take a look at themselves.
“This is so we can take steps to exorcise the cancer of unethical conduct that has taken root in some parts of our industry,” she said.
“We need to honestly answer why studies show that trust in the media is eroding,” Mahlase said. She said a 2018 Eldeman Barometer found that trust in South African media had fallen, with 61% believing that news corporations were more concerned with attracting a big audiences as opposed to reporting and 59% believing news publications sacrificed accuracy to be the first to break a story.
While they tried to find answers and ways to rebuild the trust relationship with the public, the media should not be despondent.
“The media industry is packed with ethical journalists driven by a deep commitment to journalism in the public interest and for the public good. They are not driven by short-term material gains. They are imbued with a sense and commitment to the project of building a free and prosperous nation,” Mahlase said.
She was speaking at the Sanef gala dinner held at Emoyeni Conference Centre in Johannesburg on Friday evening to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of Black Wednesday, when some black newspapers and 19 black organisations were banned and certain senior journalists detained.
Mahlase commended the many media heroes striving to unravel state capture.
“As soldiers of truth, they continue to expose the shenanigans of unethical leaders in many spheres, including government and business.
“Despite what our critics say, Steinhoff, the collusion ahead of 2010, Bosasa, VBS, etc, were exposed by the media at great personal risk,” said Mahlase.
She noted the recent apology by Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko about inaccurate articles published in his paper regarding the Cato Manor police unit and the South African Revenue Service’s “rogue unit”.
Mahlase said enemies of media freedom would use this incident to renew their campaign against the media. She said their research had shown that the industry was facing a number of threats, including complaints of inappropriate managerial interference in editorial spaces.