Daily Maverick says sorry and gives Pauw the boot, Sanef 'disappointed' by ethical breaches

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Investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw. (Photo: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Netwerk24)
Investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw. (Photo: Jaco Marais/Gallo Images/Netwerk24)
  • Investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw will no longer be part of Daily Maverick's team of contributors.
  • Editors' forum Sanef says it's "disappointed" by the ethical breaches in the publishing of an opinion piece written by Pauw and published by Daily Maverick. 
  • It says such developments highlight "bitter struggles of integrity and ethics the media is grappling with".

Daily Maverick editor Branko Brkic has apologised for publishing a column in which investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw lied, saying that Pauw would no longer contribute to the publication.

In his original piece, published last Friday, Pauw wrote that he was "stunned and dazed when pounced on by police, arrested, jailed and charged with theft".

He also claimed he was mistreated by police and accused the same officers of stealing his money.

On Tuesday, in a spectacular twist, Pauw released a statement in which he admitted that he lied in the first-person article.

He said he wanted to correct the "mistakes" he made in the column, claiming he had "too much to drink".

READ HERE | Jacques Pauw corrects 'mistakes' over his V&A Waterfront arrest: 'I feel embarrassed'

Pauw and Daily Maverick have been widely criticised for the lies and the lapses in the publication's editorial processes.

But on Wednesday, Brkic announced the end of its relationship with Pauw.

Puzzling, unethical

He also shed light on events that transpired before and after publication.

The editor said Daily Maverick made additional independent enquiries to add other voices to Pauw's story. However, no one was willing to go on record at the time of publication. 

"I believe that one of South Africa's foremost investigative journalists being arrested, mistreated and thrown into jail on Saturday night is indeed important news that merits publication, even if in the form of an opinion piece and not a full-blown investigation. This is especially true in a country with a culture of police brutality and wrongful arrest," he said.

Brkic added:

Pauw contacted me on Tuesday, 16 February and indicated that his story had changed and that he would have to issue a statement of apology. After submitting several drafts he went ahead and posted it on Twitter before Daily Maverick could publish, another puzzling and unethical act.

The publication will institute a review and will endeavour to further tighten up its editorial processes, Brkic said.  

"Where I am truly sorry is that, regardless of who's guilty in this unnecessary distraction and the form it took, incorrect information reached you, the reader. We at Daily Maverick at all times strive to tell you the truth to the best of our abilities. This time I failed you, and for that I apologise unreservedly."

In the column, Pauw detailed what he claimed at the time was his wrongful arrest by police over a restaurant bill after dining at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, News24 reported.

He explained that he came to be arrested while walking to an ATM to withdraw money to settle the bill at an unnamed restaurant.

He also claimed he was forced to walk to the ATM to withdraw cash because the R1 600 payment would not go through on his credit card.

Changed story

Pauw wrote that while walking to the ATM, with the waiter close behind, three police officers "pounced on me, grabbed my arms and cuffed my hands tightly".

Pauw said the officers told him he was being arrested for theft after a complaint by the restaurant.

He also claimed the officers took R1 000 he had on him at the time.

He appeared in court two days later.

After meeting with the management of the restaurant and the Waterfront, Pauw changed his story.

He claimed he was intoxicated and his "memory was blurred".

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) says it is "deeply concerned" and "disappointed" by the ethical breaches evident in the publishing of the article.

Sanef said the developments highlighted the "bitter struggles of integrity and ethics the media is grappling with".

The organisation said it was preparing to hold an upcoming Media Ethics and Credibility Summit in an effort to strengthen media integrity and credibility, and to regain the public's trust.

It said: 

These very problematic incidents cause the public to doubt the media's credibility and further erode the fragile relationship between law enforcement and the media.

"Along with other ethical breaches within the industry, we will also use the opportunity to reflect on these developments and how they impact the industry," the forum said.

"Pauw and Daily Maverick have since retracted the column and apologised for what was clearly a fabrication."

However, Sanef said it "believes that this ethical breach undermines the work currently under way to rebuild trust between the media and the public".

"Editors and journalists must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. The public expects the truth from us at all times. We must also not abuse our privilege of access to media platforms and the might of our pens," the forum added.

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