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OPINION: Has The Democratic Alliance Infiltrated The Sunday Times?

By Pinky Khoabane

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Jan Jan Jourbert

THE latest story, that axed Sunday Times deputy editor Jan Jan Joubert was fired for failing to disclose his links with the Democratic Alliance (DA) confirms again the extent this political party has infiltrated some newspapers, the Sunday Times in particular.

Joubert was fired for writing a story on the DA’s recruitment process in appointing a communications executive without disclosing that he had also applied for the post. It was also discovered that he shared with the DA, privileged information given to him by the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) in his capacity as a journalist.

This is not the first time that the Sunday Times in particular has displayed what could be regarded as unethical behaviour in either sharing confidential information with the DA, employing former DA spin doctor or their “journalists” found among the list of people trying to find work at the political party.

  • In 2013 City Press reported that the Sunday Times had handed over information of its investigation into then Communications Minister Dina Pule to Parliament’s Ethics & Members Committee. The information was handed in by DA’s MP Kohler Barnard. The paper said it felt duty-bound to assist the committee in its probe. In defending itself the Sunday Times said it had assisted a committee of various MPs and not just the DA. https://www.itweb.co.za/content/gxnklOqza52M4YmzThe story turned into a spat between then Sunday Times and City Press editors Phyllicia Oppelt and Ferial Haffajee, respectively. In the counter accusations emerged very disturbing claims that media colluded with government departments on information and in some instances were even rewarded in advertising for the stories they published. In an editorial, “Unethical conduct? Look at the facts” Oppelt wrote: “”This brings me to another issue – the role of City Press and its editors in the Pule matter. Here, I have to question the impartiality of its editors in the manner that they have gone about presenting Pule’s side of the story and turning the Sunday Times into the focus of their coverage. City Press’s first story on the front page appeared on the same day the ministry took out a full-page advert in the paper . Was this coincidence or reward?”And can editor Ferial Haffajee and her deputy, Adriaan Basson, truthfully say that they have never cooperated with a government institution or inquiry?

    “Has the City Press coverage of the Sunday Times really been, as stated by Basson, in the public interest, or has it served the very narrow interests of a failing publication?” https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2013-06-02-unethical-conduct-look-at-the-facts/

  • In 2013 then Sunday Times executive editor, and former editor of the Daily Dispatch in East London, Brendan Boyle was suspended for having been on the DA’s potential list of parliamentarians. Boyle had submitted his CV but was later withdrawn. He was among a list of journalists who were said to have been approached by the DA for parliamentarian positions. Boyle later resigned.
  • In 2014 Sunday Times employed former DA spin doctor as its senior political journalist prompting former ANC Parliamentary Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo to write: “What a flattering title for a former party spin-doctor. Your overnight conversion from a loyal party propagandist into a ‘political writer’ is indeed a remarkable feat.
    Not many people can boast of such an achievement. Can you imagine Jackson Mthembu or Keith Khoza becoming ‘senior political journalists’ at SABC or Sowetan? I shudder to imagine the media brouhaha that would ensue. The likes of the South African Editors Forum and Freedom of Expression will once again provide free public lectures on press freedom and threat to media independence”.

    What does the Press Code Say of Journalists Joining Political Parties

  • “The press shall not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence or slant reporting. Conflicts of interest must be avoided, as well as arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the press’s independence and professionalism.”
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