'Editorial independence is sacrosanct' - Sanef welcomes Primedia inquiry and recommendations

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) on Thursday welcomed the fact that an independent inquiry had been instituted into allegations of censorship and editorial interference at Primedia.

"Sanef welcomes the fact that the inquiry was instituted. We believe that editorial independence is sacrosanct," said media freedom chairperson Sam Mkokeli and executive director Kate Skinner in a statement.

"We believe that it is critical that newsrooms are insulated from outside interference, including pressures from both political and commercial interests. All allegations of interference need to be comprehensively investigated and adjudicated on."

The findings of the inquiry, chaired by advocate Terry Motau SC, were released in a report this week. It concluded that the allegations by former Talk Radio 702 presenter Karima Brown were unfounded.

Brown maintains the report is a "cover-up".

READ: Karima Brown breached broadcasting code - independent inquiry finds

Brown lodged a complaint of editorial interference and censorship against her former station manager, Thabisile Mbete, two days after her contract as host of the Karima Brown Show on Talk Radio 702 lapsed.

Mbete had received several complaints about an episode of the show that was aired in November last year, in which Brown discussed the employment history and employers of five individuals, and created links between their dealings with MultiChoice and the SABC.

Mbete told Brown that the individuals should be given a right to reply, as they had not been approached before the show.

Motau found that Brown had breached the provisions of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa's (BCCSA) code by not having a factual basis for links she created on her show between five individuals and their dealings with MultiChoice and the SABC.

Motau also said the individuals should have been given an opportunity to comment and that Brown did not consider the potential harm to their reputations.

He ended his report with recommendations regarding several amendments and/or improvements to Primedia's editorial policies and procedures.

These included inducting staff about these policies and procedures at the start of their employment, developing a comprehensive statement of its editorial approach and improving channels for audience complaints.

Sanef welcomed these suggestions and hope that they were "seriously considered" by Primedia.

Speaking to News24 on Wednesday, Brown said the report was "a cover-up".

"The report is a cover-up by 702 because it had the opportunity to [institute disciplinary action] when the complaint was laid against me by my station manager. I was never informed about any disciplinary action, and I was never informed about the reasons why management did not discipline me. I only found this out when the inquiry was on," she added.

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