SA editors back probe into pressures on editorial decisions

2016-02-14 14:34


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Pretoria - The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) will commission a study into the evolving media landscape and possible solutions to cope with the challenges, it said in a statement.

"Council deliberated extensively on the changing media landscape, the commercial and other pressures and their implications on editorial independence," executive director Mathatha Tsedu said.

"The consequences of such pressures have manifested themselves in the form of direct proprietal/managerial interference in editorial decision-making processes and indirectly through the blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial."

Sanef warned that this "conflictual and strained relationship between editors and proprietors/managers has resulted in the resignation of a number of editors over the past two years" - an untenable situation that threatens the very essence of media freedom that is crucial to uphold democracy.

During a meeting held over the weekend, the council discussed extensively the commercial and other pressures and their implications on editorial independence.

"In light of these serious threats and in recognition of the real implications of the evolvement of our industry, council decided to commission research on the new media landscape and possible models and solutions."

Tsedu added that the process could culminate in a meeting with media managers to establish new rules of engagement with regard to editorial independence and ethical advertising.

"Until such time that our research is concluded, Sanef calls on proprietors and management to allow editors to exercise their editorial discretion and work without any interference," he said.

The council also agreed that Sanef should urgently meet with the leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to discuss the implications of their decision to threaten journalists from media outlets owned by the Gupta family.

Party leader Julius Malema said journalists working for the Gupta-owned broadcaster ANN7 and its newspaper The New Age would no longer be welcome at EFF events and that the party could not guarantee their safety.

He subsequently told the Guptas, who are South African citizens, to leave the country or the situation "could become volatile". He accused the Guptas of being a corrupt cartel that was in cahoots with President Jacob Zuma.

The matter was taken to the High Court in Pretoria where the Gupta brothers on Tuesday obtained an urgent interdict to stop the EFF from threatening them.

Judge Johan Louw granted an order interdicting the party, Malema and its Gauteng spokesperson Ntobeng Ntobeng from making threats of violence against the brothers Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh Gupta, and their employees.

The interdict was granted while EFF members were protesting outside the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, waving posters stating "Guptas must go", "Honeymoon is over for Guptas" and "We'll fight war with war" and singing "Shoot Zuma, shoot the Guptas".

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