Insults and threats won’t hide the truth

2010-03-20 15:28

WE in the world of journalism play a hardball game. We infringe on

privacy, access company records and often write about issues that individuals

would prefer did not see the light of day.


It’s the function of the media in society to act as the Fourth

Estate that protects society’s higher values. In this we are guided by our

constitution, which enshrines freedom of ­expression.


But like all rights it is balanced by responsibilities. We have to

tell the truth; we have to be accurate; we have to allow the other side to tell

their story.

We must respect our reading public and maintain the highest

professional standards.


In City Press’s coverage of the business dealings of the ANC Youth

League president, Julius Malema, we have ­accessed his company records and then

laboured for months unravelling his business interests because he is the most

powerful politician in the country and he wields influence.

He is pushing a

nationalisation agenda while not practising what he preaches.


He is a classic example of a tenderpreneur and he is the country’s

best-known politician. There is a lot of public interest in his business

dealings.


As we have investigated him we have had to satisfy the terms of the

press code of conduct that guides journalists’ work and have kept our lawyers in

our ­offices to ensure that our coverage is legally ­watertight.


Now the league seems to believe it is held to no such standards.

It

has put damaging information about our investigations editor in the public

domain and insisted that journalists cover this story even though it is riddled

with factual inaccuracies and falsehoods.


When our colleagues refused to cover the story, the league’s

spokesperson, Floyd Shivambu, threatened those journalists with exposure of

their personal details too.

Journalists have been maligned in public forums and

­insulted and threatened.


It is clear that the league is using security agents to access

information about its perceived enemies to continue its dirty fight.

This is not

the way of decency in a constitutional state but the ANC no longer has the

tempering hand of the wise elders.

The party has been cowed into silence by the

child soldiers who threaten mayhem and brook no difference.


Now the South African National Editors Forum is insisting on a

meeting with President Jacob Zuma to bring these damaging dirty tricks to his

attention and to get him to pull his power drunk youth league back from a

damaging confrontation between politics and the media in which intelligence

databases are once again being abused.

We do hope the president will leash the

Young Lions.


Journalism can claim no ­special privileges but at least we deserve

to be allowed to do our work within the ambit of our laws without slander and

threat.

 

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