News | South Africa | State Capture
Media outlets should cut ties with African News Agency (ANA) as their admission to receiving millions from the spy agency has done nothing but add to the challenges of journalistic credibility, say experts.
Former safety and security minister Sydney Mufamadi told the state capture inquiry last week that ANA had received R20 million from the State Security Agency (SSA) to counter negative coverage on it, former president Jacob Zuma and the country.
The agency admitted to the transaction, with chief executive Vasantha Angamuthu saying the money received in 2016/17 was for a contract to “provide multi-media training for SSA analysts and interns” and to use its platforms to “carry positive stories about SA and the SA government”.
But the scandal would alienate the media outlet as its credibility is now severely compromised, said Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird.
“They haven’t denied that they took the money… The fact that you have a state security body paying them, even if it is on the surface to produce positive news, that severely compromises the credibility of ANA.”
“ANA should come clean about that transaction and furnish details of who was involved,” he said.
Veteran journalist Anton Harber said the incident poses yet another serious challenge to journalistic credibility in the country.
“We have to differentiate between those outlets and publications and journalists who are asserting and holding their independence and those who have compromised it and are harbouring all of the media. This is the worst case yet we have seen of a media house so badly compromised by their secret agreement with the SSA.”
“It’s destroyed the credibility of ANA. Nobody can take them seriously. Nobody can really consider what they do as journalism and they really revealed themselves to be a propaganda arm of a certain political faction,” said Harber.
Independent attacks Sanef but mum on ANA
The South African Editors Forum (Sanef) has called for an investigation into the R20 million transaction, further stating that ANA was part of Independent Media group, which the newspaper group has strongly denied.
The news wire is currently heavily dependent on Independent Media title newspapers in South Africa since The Citizen and eNCA decided not to renew their subscriptions more than a year ago.
In a statement signed by all title editors, the media group accused Sanef of using a “Nazi propagandist style” approach, and that Independent and ANA were two different business entities.
“We believe that Sanef’s statement supports an ongoing, relentless campaign by our critics and competitors, to smear and discredit Independent Media journalists, editors and the organisation as a whole.”
The news agency was borne out of the now defunct South African Press Association, after Dr Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Investment Holdings acquired the newswire. Survé also chairs the Independent Media Group.
Survé was cited in a recent Media Ethics and Credibility report by retired Judge Kathy Satchwell to have interfered with the editorial independence of journalists and editors in the group.
Despite their protestations, Independent did not make a sound or provide any indication of plans to cut ties with the compromised news wire, which was what all news organisations should do, said Harber.
“Everyone should cut ties with ANA. Independent [Media] Group itself is compromised and has gone rogue. One has to look at the position of that whole group including ANA. They have been exposed as a propaganda machinery with no allegiance and principles and ethics of journalism at all.”
“I think readers, consumers, citizens and advertisers should be taking careful note of this and ask themselves if this is what they want to support.”
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