Tembisa 10: Independent Media story 'a gross lapse of ethical journalism', says Sanef

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  • The South African National Editors' Forum has noted the findings by advocate Michael Donen on Independent Media's reporting on the so-called "Tembisa 10".
  • It slammed the lack of journalistic ethics in the reporting.
  • Sanef called for the independent external report to be released to the public.

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has noted findings made by advocate Michael Donen that Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi was reckless when he published an article, stating as fact that a woman had given birth to 10 babies, without any evidence.

Donen investigated whether Rampedi had followed due diligence when preparing the story on the alleged birth of decuplets for publication, and any ethical breaches in the reporting of the story by other Independent Media staff.

Sanef said in a statement on Thursday:

The news story was a clear case of a gross lapse of ethical journalism that has done untold damage to the profession at a time we are rebuilding the trust relationship with the public.

News24 reported on Wednesday that an independent external investigation had found that Pretoria News was "reckless" in publishing a story penned by Rampedi, which claimed that a Tembisa woman, Gosiame Sithole, had given birth to 10 babies.

READ | Tembisa 10: 'Reckless to publish the story' - advocate recommends disciplinary action against Piet Rampedi

Donen's report found that Rampedi had breached Independent Media's code of ethics. He recommended disciplinary action be taken against him, News24 reported.

Sanef stated that the cardinal principle in journalism was to get the facts right the first time by ensuring that all information is corroborated by more than one source.

Michael Donen, Dr Mpho Pooe and Iqbal Survé
The Independent Media panel, (from left) Michael Donen, Dr Mpho Pooe and Iqbal Survé.
PHOTO: Meghan Lawrence

"When the information cannot be corroborated, we owe it to our audiences to be transparent and inform them accordingly," Sanef added.

It reiterated its call for Independent Media to rejoin the Press Council of SA so that it can abide by the industry-wide rules.

Sanef explained that the Press Council allowed for all media houses to be held accountable when they acted in breach of the Press Code and failed to practice ethical journalism, and afforded those who had been aggrieved to be able to complain before an independent panel.

Sanef continued: 

We hope Independent Media will also use this moment to reflect on the treatment of the story and ensure that all subsequent stories are backed up by real evidence and sources. We hope that they will also review their internal systems to ensure all stories are checked before publication.

Several allegations were made during a press briefing on Wednesday against politicians, medical professionals and hospitals. Independent Media chair Iqbal Survé said more would be revealed to the public in a documentary-like series.

In response to this, Sanef said: "We hope the promised 10-part documentary will see them abide by world accepted journalistic standards to provide evidence to all allegations.

"As an organisation – charged with the responsibility to champion media freedom and promote ethical journalism – we have confined our comments to the part of the report that deals with journalism and do not in any way vouch for other unverified claims made during the release of the report."

Sanef further noted that the said report had not been made public, and called for it to be made accessible to everyone for perusal

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