The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has called on the media to practice ethical journalism when covering COVID-19 outbreak.

Sanef held a workshop in Durban under the theme “Ethics, Journalism and safety in the digital age” in Durban.

It says it is important that journalists maintain the doctor-patient confidentiality when reporting on the coronavirus. This means not disclosing a person’s identity without their permission, as has happened on social media.

The seminar was aimed at reinforcing the mandate of maintaining ethical journalism, and the safety and integrity of editors and reporters.

Reminding all – Coronavirus positive patients still had a constitutional right to remain anonymous despite the national interest.

Sanef Media Freedom Chairperson, Mary Papayya says journalists must conduct research and only rely on experts when reporting on the virus.

“For instance, around the coronavirus, people want to know the names of the infected. From that perspective, issues around doctor-patient confidentiality have to maintained and what’s important is for the journalist to understand and go out there and research as much as they can around the disease. One must understand that ethics are important to build public trust. We’ve seen the transgression from recent years around certain stories that were questionable when those kinds of transgressions happen. The public trust in the media drops considerably.”

Report by SABC News Jayed-Leigh Paulse:

The coverage of coronavirus, embedded journalism, self-censorship, Cyberbullying and political interference in the newsroom are some of the topics discussed.

The workshop created a platform for journalists to engage and share their experiences in the field.

Sanef also condemned the violent and hostile attacks on the media which included cyberbullying.

Sanef KZN Convenor Judy Sandison speaks about Twitter is now being used to target reporters. She has cautioned media practitioners not to get into cyber wars.

The media lobby group has also established THE SATCHWELL inquiry. An independent inquiry into media credibility and ethics for recommendations and formal complaints.

The inquiry was triggered by accusations that some journalists were taking bribes.

Sanef believes the inquiry will also help restore the faith in the public with regards to media practitioners and the moral fibre within the media fraternity.

Gauteng on high alert 

Meanwhile, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku says his department remains on high alert following the increased number of COVID-19 patients in the province. Five more people have been confirmed to have tested positive for the virus.

This brings to six the number of coronavirus-related patients in Gauteng. On Tuesday a suspected coronavirus person was treated and released into self-quarantine.

Masuku, who accompanied Premier David Makhura on an interaction programme with residents in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria, says the patients returned from Europe recently.

“The patient is actually home and we’ve now been told by NICD that we have five more patients that have been found to be positive, who have a travel history to Europe and those patients, we are coordinating with the facilities where they are which are private facilities to coordinate them and round them up to come to our actual facilities as the public sector. There’s no need to panic. I think we just have to be on high alert, vigilant and also have to ingrain new habits of doing things in a hygienic way.”

The map below tracks coronavirus cases across the world: