The South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef) is calling for an investigation into claims that the State Security Agency (SSA) was used as a vehicle to plant positive news stories about the government for certain media outlets.

On Monday, the State Capture Commission of Inquiry heard evidence from the former chair of the high-level review panel into SSA, Dr Sydney Mufamadi, who claimed that news wire, African News Agency, was paid around R20 million in the 2015/16 financial year for services rendered.

“There was bad publicity in the country and beyond about the president and about the SSA, which then necessitated this infiltration and influencing of the media. So, they say the project was launched in the 2015/2016 financial year with a budget of R24 million. They say one of the largest amounts issued for this project was R20 million given to a media agency, apparently, therefore, for services rendered,” said Mufamadi.

Sanef chairperson, Sbu Ngalwa, says this is shocking and needs a thorough probe.

“The press code is quite clear in terms of how media organisations should avoid being influenced by commercial and also political interests where they are seen to be pushing agendas. We should avoid that at all times. We should be seen in being ethical in doing that very work. Our concern is that such issues taint the media industry,” says Ngalwa.

The organisation has also expressed concern over claims of media manipulation by SSA.

The agency allegedly provided funding for the establishment of a certain broadcast media company where it seconded some of its members.

Testimony on alleged politicisation and factionalisation of intelligence community: 

 

Political analyst, Professor Leseba Teffo, says these revelations are not surprising as they expose the extent to which alleged corruption was happening within state organs.

“It’s not a surprise because it is the main confirmation of what we have been picking up, what I appreciate most is that it provides a catalyst moment for the electorate. I’m just happy that president Zuma in his wisdom or otherwise made this possible that we have this conversation through the commission,” says Teffo.

Iqbal Surve’s ANA has meanwhile refuted Mufamadi’s claims, saying it was not set up to be a front for the SSA. In a statement, the newswire says it accepted money to provide a multi-media training for SSA analysts and interns across Africa and carry positive stories about the country and government.

At that particular time, ANA provided content for the SABC News and other media outlets.

Dr Sydney Mufamadi gives an explosive testimony at State Capture Inquiry: