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Sanef concerned by political leaders ‘interfering in newsroom operations’

  • Sanef has called on political leaders to stop interfering in newsroom matters.
  • The body says that, when politicians involve themselves in the inner workings of a newsroom, independence is eroded.
  • Sanef was responding to statements by the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has called on political leaders to stop interfering in newsroom matters.

“Sanef is concerned about the continued utterances from senior political leaders naming journalists and interfering in the operations of newsrooms – the heart of the media freedom bulwark,” the body said in a statement on Sunday.

Sanef adds that, as the country prepared for the upcoming local government elections, it was critical for political parties to maintain an arms-length approach when dealing with the media.

READ | Sanef condemns cyberbullying of journalist after report implicating politician in rape case

“History shows us that when politicians involve themselves in the inner workings of a newsroom – in this case, the public broadcaster – independence is eroded.

“It is dangerous. The online naming and targeting of journalists leads to harassment and attacks by political party followers, and even physical and death threats,” it said.

The organisation further noted comments by the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi on social media naming the public broadcaster’s editor-in-chief Phatiswa Magopeni and accusing her of a “ruthless reign”, citing allegations that journalist Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki was pushed out and that veteran journalist Sophie Mokoena is next.

“He further alludes that the SABC is ‘killed’ by the ruling party and is a ‘lite’ of commercial television news broadcaster eNCA. Statements of this nature smack of irresponsible and knee-jerk utterances.”

Sanef said: 

It borders on interference and overreach in the inner workings of the news management. Further, it has been widely publicised that Ms Gqubule-Mbeki has resigned from the SABC and had submitted a press statement to this effect.

The organisation further stated that, while it did not involve itself in labour matters, it was opposed to politicians interfering in the internal affairs of media houses.

“If Mr Ndlozi as an MP has any concerns of any nature about the SABC, he should boldly raise them through the relevant portfolio committee in Parliament. 

“Journalists have a right to resign from an organisation, including the public broadcaster. Journalists who have concerns with their management are encouraged to raise these via the normal channels and pursue alternative options available to them,” Sanef said.

READ | Sanef demands that Crime Intelligence stop ‘bugging’ journalists

The organisation further reiterated its call to all in leadership positions, including politicians, to protect media freedom and allow newsrooms to function independently, without interference.

“Journalists must not be placed in the middle of political and/or inter-party factional disputes that are so endemic in the South African political landscape.”

Ndlozi took to social media to respond to the Sanef statement, saying: “I will not be told by a media faction called SANEF, a bunch of ramamenions, charlatans & dogs of white monopoly capital, how to criticise one of their imposters. SANEF should be dissolved! It is part of the stumbling block to the protection of ethical & free media. Pathetic bunch.”

News24 reached out to Ndlozi for further comment. It will be added if it is received.

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