The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) on Tuesday called for names to be revealed by witnesses testifying before the commission of inquiry into state capture to allow implicated individuals the space to respond.
Police whistleblower Dhanajaya Naidoo on Monday testified that several journalists, including Sunday Times associate editor Ranjeni Munusamy, were paid by Crime Intelligence to “plant stories in the media”. He claimed to have knowledge of three instances where reporters were “paid or used”.
Senior Hawks investigator Colonel Kobus Roloefse also previously testified that the Hawks were able to uncover an amount of R143,621,78 paid from the Atlantis Motors business account to a Wesbank vehicle finance account in the settlement agreement of the vehicle in the name of Munusamy during an investigation into the alleged looting of the secret service account within Crime Intelligence.
Munusamy has denied all the allegations against her.
Sanef, in a responding statement, said the Press Council Code was clear that “paid for” or “brown envelope” journalism was completely unacceptable.
“Sanef champions ethical journalism. If anyone has any evidence of unethical journalism – including the very serious breach of accepting funds for journalism – we encourage them to go to the Press Council.”
It said that Section 2 of the Code dealt with “Independence and Conflicts of Interest” and states that the media shall:
– Not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence reporting, and avoid conflicts of interest as well as practices that could lead readers to doubt the media’s independence and professionalism;
– Not accept any benefit which may influence coverage;
– Indicate clearly when an outside organisation has contributed to the cost of newsgathering; and
– Keep editorial material clearly distinct from advertising and sponsored events.
“Further, we have launched our own independent inquiry into media credibility and ethics chaired by retired Judge Kathleen Satchwell. We encourage any South African with evidence of journalists acting unethically or illegally to approach Judge Satchwell and the authorities, including the Zondo commission,” the statement reads.
Submissions should be sent to email@example.com.
“In terms of Munusamy, we again welcome the decision by Tiso Blackstar to grant her special leave. We note Munusamy’s strong denial of any wrong-doing, her detailed affidavit explaining the circumstances of her car repayments and related issues and her promise to cooperate fully with the Zondo Commission. We await the outcome of the commission’s hearings and Tiso Blackstar’s internal investigation.”
News24 on Monday reported that Munusamy explained in an affidavit that her vehicle was settled by a close family friend, Basheer Ahmed Abdool, and that at the time of the payments referred to by Roelofse, she had not been working as a journalist.