Journalism in the Climate of Political Agendas, Photoshop & Advanced Technology

By Pinky Khoabane


IN THESE days of extensive political agendas, photoshop and advanced technology, those who disseminate information are going to have to be vigilant in sifting through fact from fiction.

A string of Whatsapp messages sent to me on Saturday suggesting a journalist on a Sunday newspaper had dropped a story which he had been pursuing in return for a “juicier” story involving President Jacob Zuma reminded me of the tough times ahead when reporting in a politically charged climate that South Africa currently finds itself.

The Whatsapp messages included questions which the journalist had supposedly sent to a government ministry. It was alleged that once he had sent the questions, he was asked to meet top officials from the department who then asked him to drop the story and offered him something worth a front page.

The journalist concerned has refuted completely claims that he could and had ever dropped a story for another. He also denied he had sent any questions to the department even though among the Whatsapp messages sent to me included questions he supposedly sent to the department.

It was interesting that the journalist said he had sent the questions to the said department some months ago and yet my sources were suggesting the questions were sent just last week.

The dilemma for the messenger is determining whose side is true. The only way to treat such stories would be to invest the time in doing thorough research, getting the story from as many angles as possible and once a decision is made to publish it, ensuring that all parties are given an opportunity to comment.

In adjudicating complaints about newspaper reports, the press ombudsman constantly refers to the following sections of the Code of Ethics and Conduct:
· 1.1: “The media shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”;
· 1.8: “The media shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication …”; and
· 3.3: “The media shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving … reputation.”

Unfortunately the pressure placed on commercial journalists to deliver stories which “sell” or to advance the agenda of one party or another, sees a considerable number of complaints being placed before the press ombudsman. Some of the complaints are dismissed but there are a number which are found to have violated the Press Code.

Just two days ago, Independent Media reported that the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, was to be auctioned for failure to pay a R25 million debt owed to Resurgent Risk Managers. Subsequent to the publication, both the ANC and Resurgent Risk Managers denied claims of a judgment or action by the sheriff to attach Luthuli House. Independent Media has had to apologise “unconditionally” to the ANC and Resurgent Risk Managers.

As it turns out, the journalist involved in the story had not corroborated the story and did not properly identify the legal documents. These are basic tenets of journalism which some journalists completely ignore. Three journalists involved in the story have now been suspended. This is itself doesn’t happen often. The ANC would have had to complain to the ombudsman, the outcome of which would have been made several weeks and months later. Meanwhile, its financial reputation would have been in complete tatters.

The speed with which Independent Media’s Executive Chairman Dr Iqbal Survé  has addressed the matter should be commended.

“Independent Media safeguards its integrity and will not publish news that is not firmly corroborated by our journalists.

“Furthermore we expect our journalists, including freelance journalists, to have the highest ethical standards and to at all times ensure that the news reported is accurate and is able to withstand scrutiny, so that our readers have confidence in both our print and online publications.”

He said he hoped that the swift and immediate action they’d taken would “demonstrate to our readers, and all other parties, and that we will speedily investigate if our journalists do not perform according to our high standard of ethics.

“We won’t tolerate our platforms carrying fake news, or news that has not been corroborated. This is a serious breach of ethics, and is tantamount to Independent Media being used to further an agenda,” Dr Survé said.

There’s something to be learnt here which those who disseminate news should take from. Learn to quickly call out falsehoods and a return to the basics of journalism – to report truthfully and fairly and where lies have been published, to swiftly rectify and hold those responsible accountable.

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  1. Again there can never be a better time than this to call for the speedy institution of the Media Tribunal

  2. Hi Pk, I found this article of Max du preez to be fake news, also found the interest of making an offer to fund investigation to be insulting to our government.


    Max suggests that the so called State Capture revealed by Gupta leaked emails is R80 billion.

    Where and how he would have come to that figure?

    He suggests to help MPs with information from the leaked emails which has no known source., thus not authentic also would not be admissible in the court of law.

    The question that comes to mind is:

    Was there any violation in making these emails public?
    More importantly declaring this information as factual?

    Are investigative journalist allowed to hatch into someone account or server?

    Why don’t these people hand over the evidence of these emails to law enforcement (hawk) who are currently investigating the same state capture?

    Am just hoping that you PK in your wisdom, being in the field can give us some enlightenment.

    1. I will check it out a little later Cde Jeff. In the meantime, maybe others will have an input.

    2. Jeff I agree fully with you.

      Another worrisome issue for me is that instead of opening a case of wrongdoing OUTA chose to play a very clever game of dumping the Leaked emails with the NPA.

      They know and I suppose they have already been given legal advise that according to ECTA (Electronic Communications and Transactions act), they are unlikely to opne any criminal case using the Leaked emails because ECTA makes it difficult for such emails to be classified as evidence until certain stringent criteria is met as follows:

      1) The reliability of the manners in which data message was generated, stored, or communicated;
      2)The reliability of the manner in which integrity of data message was maintained; and
      3)The manner in which its originator was identified.

      So, having established that it will not be easy to proof the above in court using Leaked emails, OUTA had to dump the emails with the NPA so that the NPA in failing to achieve what they themselves would not achieve, NPA WOULD CARRY THE BLAME AND PUBLIC ACCUSATIONS OF COVER UP.

      It is a game intended to generate more Public media bashing towards the NPA and by extension Government.

      The NPA should have refused the emails right from the beginning and requested OUTA to open criminal cases with the Police if they are convinced of wrongdoing.

      Max du Preez as well, would rather approach Parliament than open a criminal case at a nearest police station.

      Many individuals and Political parties have been taking initiative of opening cases left right and centre without approaching either Parliament or the NPA directly. The question is why are they not doing the same with the Leaked emails also?

      Again the claim that certain individuals confirmed that the emails are true is absurd because we are talking about 4 or 5 individuals confirming 4 or 5 emails that by the way conveniently happens to be the only non incriminating emails 4 or 5 out of how many emails? Thousands?

      This in itself is ignorance of how propaganda works. Propaganda carefully blends certain elements that are True but not incriminating with elements that are completely false. It will advertise the few true elements as a sample representative of the entire elements that are not true.

      Lastly, if there is anything to learn and if the Miway email saga is anything to go by, is that emails can be written and placed in a company server as if they are sourced from the same company.

      Miway saga could not have happened at a right time. Whatever arguments one conveys in defence of Miway should be applied on the Gupta emails in order to comply with ECTA.

  3. I so wish that the masses would wake up and see what these people are up to.Fair and balanced reporting in South Africa does not exist, the only reporting you get is the one that criminalise and demonise everything the anc led government does.You hardly come across positive news these days because that’s the picture they want to paint to the public that everything is falling apart which is a big fat lie.They want us to lose faith in our leaders and the anc so that they can hijack the country.They are living in lala land that will never happen fair or unfair reporting 2019 ukhongolose will emerge victorious.

  4. The action taken by Dr iqbal surve is commendable and good. But the manner in which he has done it not right at all cause these fake news is not the first one to happen, if he was real in that he would have done a lot on those fake news that were reported before this one. He has avoided long time ago. This could be a strategy to reposition themselves because they feel whatever agenda they have about government was seen by many to be propaganda. Their story headlines and most of their content would be misleading. I hope those whom action was swiftly taken against were not just journalists only because swiftness in this regard would not serve any purpose. Because if that was the case it means cutting a branch hoping the tree will never grow again.

    1. Dear Tokelo

      You make very valid points more so that those responsible cannot be journalists only. There’s a process in the newsroom which includes several people overseeing the content. Where was the immediate editor to ask for the legal papers and to check if they really what they are meant to be.



  5. Hi sissy Pinky, thank you so much for the information. Indeed the action taken by Independent Media’s Executive Chairman Dr Iqbal Survé deserves applause. Too many image damaging stories have been published and ended up tarnishing people’s names or organisations concerned. I thank you again sissy Pinky for sharing this openly and hopefully the action taken by the Independent Media will reduce or even bring to an end the fake news because some people who do fake news don’t care whether they are exposed at the end…they are just satisfied that they have messed up or done damage to others or even pocketed some cash. Suspending or sacking the perpetrators; will definitely send a clear message to anyone who was still planning to do such…I especially hail and appreciate the speed at which action was taken.

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