The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has slammed the lack of journalistic ethics surrounding Independent Media’s story about a woman allegedly giving birth to 10 babies.
It said the story was a “clear case of a gross lapse of ethical journalism” and it had damaged the journalism profession at a time when Sanef was trying to rebuild trust with the public.
“The cardinal principle in journalism is to get the facts right the first time by ensuring that all the information is corroborated by more than one source. When the information cannot be corroborated, we owe it to our audiences to be transparent and inform them accordingly,” said Sanef.
This comes after advocate Michael Donen, during the press briefing arranged by Independent Media on Wednesday, said Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi was reckless when he published the article.
Donen said Rampedi failed to do due diligence when he wrote that Gosiame Sithole had given birth to 10 babies.
“Due to the fact that the birth of decuplets is unknown in human history, I concluded that to publish a story saying the decuplets were born and that the Guinness Book of World Record was broken without corroboration was reckless. The only evidence that existed at the time was a report that had been made by the alleged father and he had said that his wife had told him that she gave birth to decuplets. I regard that according to journalistic standards as reckless and that would be so regardless of whether the current inquiry proves that,” Donen said.
Sanef also noted the claims made “without evidence” by Independent Media chairperson Iqbal Survé that politicians, medical professionals, and hospitals were involved in a baby trafficking syndicate.
“We hope the promised 10-part documentary will see them abide by world accepted journalistic standards to provide evidence to all allegations,” it added.
Sanef reiterated its call for Independent Media to rejoin the Press Council of SA so that its publications are held to the same standards as other media companies.
“The Press Council allows for all media houses to be held accountable when they act in breach of the Press Code and fail to practise ethical journalism.”
During the Independent Media briefing on Wednesday, Survé stood by the Thembisa 10 story.
Survé said an internal investigation had confirmed the 10 babies were born, but that two had died and the other eight were “trafficked”. He also claimed the investigation revealed a massive government cover-up.
Later that day, the Gauteng government said it would not take Independent Media’s claims lightly and plans to take the matter to court.
“The provincial government has instructed the state attorney to institute legal action against the Independent Media Group,” read a statement from the provincial government.
“A senior counsel has been briefed and court papers will be served on Independent Media in due course.”