The ANC says it has welcomed a statement by its national chairperson Gwede Mantashe denying allegations that he bribed two Sunday World journalists to bury an article about his alleged extramarital affair.ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said in a statement that the party was "heartened" by the fact that Mantashe, who is also the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, had given assurances that he was never involved in such "criminal and unethical" conduct."Bribing journalists is not only criminal and unethical, it is also inconsistent with the values of the ANC."The ANC has neither a policy nor culture of buying journalists and strongly associates itself with the letter and spirit expressed in the preamble of Press Code of the Press Council of South Africa, affirming that media exist to serve society," Mabe said. On Sunday, the newspaper published a response from Mantashe, claiming that he had declined to answer their questions about a love triangle story involving him, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Lerato Habiba Makgatho.According to the response the paper published, Mantashe had begged two journalists not to publish the story and paid them. He, however, would not reveal their names and said the publication could go ahead and write the story as that was his comment.On Tuesday, Mantashe denied the claim.A statement issued by Moferefere Lekorotsoana, chief of staff in the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, reads: "The statement attributed to him seems to have created an impression of him being involved in the act of bribery. Mr Mantashe is clear that none of the sort occurred.Mabe said the ANC would continue to defend the media’s right to report without fear or favour. "During the drafting of the Constitution, the ANC was clear and vociferous on protecting and defending media freedom. Members of the fourth estate must be allowed to do their job openly and freely. The contribution of the media in the creation and consolidation of a free, just and democratic South Africa is fully acknowledged and not in dispute," he said.