Pretoria - The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has condemned "inflammatory remarks" made by EFF leader Julius Malema on social media about eNCA, which has led to threats being made against journalists working at the broadcaster.
Earlier this week, Malema took to Twitter accusing eNCA of advocating an "anti-black agenda" and supporting white supremacy.
In a statement, Sanef said it recognises and supports Malema's right to criticise media houses and to engage editors in robust debates about how news it covered, but that right does not extend to making spurious and inflammatory remarks that could endanger journalists.
eNCA editor-in-chief Mapi Mhlangu confirmed to Sanef that members of her team have been at the receiving end of abuse and threats following Malema's remarks.
"This is regrettable and must be condemned. When the EFF threatened journalists from ANN7 to stay away from its press conferences, Sanef met the leadership of the party and conveyed our concern about these tactics," said Sanef.
"We implored the EFF to voice its concerns with media houses through the appropriate channels and not to target journalists. We again reiterate this call."
In an editor's note, Mhlangu said the allegations made by Malema were disturbing given the values at the core of eNCA's journalism over the last decade.
"Despite our relatively small size as a news organisation, we have consistently dedicated our limited resources to stories which have put justice, equality and human rights at the centre of our news, in line with our insistence that we offer news without fear or favour," said Mhlangu.
"Our staff have consistently told stories about what is broken in this country, how it can be fixed and how we can make each other accountable."
She said Malema's characterisation of eNCA is not supported by the factual record.
Mhlangu added that the channel's majority stakeholder is a Black empowerment company, Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), and of that a significant share of eMedia is held by the South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (Sactwu).
"The ownership of eNCA through eMedia is therefore not as has often been alleged in public.
Who spoke about ownership of the @eNCA? There’s a difference between ownership and editorial decisions and therefore your editorial policy is to promote white supremacy that’s all. @eNCA is pushing anti black agenda and you can’t fool us about that, we see you.— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) March 19, 2018
"Additionally, the staff members at eNCA are representative of the diversity of people who make up contemporary South Africa, who bring to their work divergent political views and social experiences, which inform our story-telling in ways which South Africans have appreciated to the extent of making us the most-watched channel among news viewers."
She said that media freedom and the safety of journalists are under increasing threat around the world and that South Africans fought long and hard to guarantee this freedom as a pillar of the constitutional democracy.
"Political parties, leaders and citizens have the freedom to criticise the media, but also have the responsibility to do so through the channels available to them in ways which contribute to strengthening democracy and accountability."
Sanef said complains about eNCA's editorial coverage should be lodged with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA or the Press Council, in the case of online content.
I think EFF should really discuss in depth the role of @eNCA in perpetuating and defending white privilege and see if we can’t come to the same conclusion we did with the ANN7. I don’t know maybe I’m wrong but a proper discourse can conclude this.— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) March 18, 2018
The changes at SABC are worrisome, someone is busy creating @eNCA lite at the SABC. We have to find a way of stopping whiteness from taking over the only platform of black people before is too late. @eNCA is the platform that perpetuate white supremacy and there’s no doubt— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) March 18, 2018
A very strong statement from Mapi at eNCA! She needs all the support against the bullies at the EFF. Editor's note: eNCA on Malema and white supremacy https://t.co/NCGKuwXOrZ— Palesa Morudu (@palesa_morudu) March 19, 2018