SANEF warns against unsubstantiated allegations against journalists

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The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has spoken out on the debate about the role of the media in peddling falsehoods and discrediting certain anti-apartheid activists.

This after a video clip is circulating on social media where the late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela accuses particular journalists of “doing the work of” the Apartheid security establishment including StratCom.

Madikizela-Mandela states that the work of these journalists contributed to her being undermined and vilified.

In a documentary titled “Winnie” broadcast on Wednesday, the director of StratCom, Vic McPherson, reveals the details of a strategy which had struggle icon Madikizela-Mandela as its primary target.

McPherson says the goal was to discredit her to such an extent that she would be isolated and eliminated from the inner circle of the ANC.

In the interview, Madikizela-Mandela mentions some of the journalists whom she says wrote negative stories about her…

Watch the interview below:

Madikizela-Mandela says, “I mean there were reporters who specialised in writing very negative stories about me like Thandi Gqubule, a girl who was called Nomavenda. I was pleasantly surprised to see Anton Harber talk like that because he was editor of the then Weekly Mail and the Weekly Mail at the time was so anti-ANC, anti-me, they actually did the job for StratCom.”

The SABC’s economics editor Thandeka Gqubule says she will not comment on the allegations at this time and efforts to reach Nomavenda Mthiyane have been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, veteran journalist and Wits Professor, Anton Harber, has rubbished claims that the Weekly Mail newspaper did work for the Apartheid government’s Strategic Communications.

He was editor of the newspaper of which Madikizela Mandela has accused of working for Stratcom. Harber says this is very upsetting.

“It’s very upsetting because it’s absolute dangerous nonsense and to suggest me or my colleagues that we mentioned in that video had anything to do with Stratcom is just terribly – terribly dangerous nonsense. Our newspaper exposed StratCom, we were one of the most outspoken anti-government anti-apartheid newspaper. So it’s very upsetting allegation, and its absolute, absolute nonsense.”

Listen to Anton Harber’s response below:

SANEF fully acknowledges the brutality of the apartheid regime and its misinformation campaigns. The organisation says that given this context of lies and propaganda, they believe it is critical that concrete evidence is brought forward to substantiate claims that specific journalists supported the apartheid state’s security establishment.

“In the absence of any such evidence, the circulation of unsubstantiated rumours is irresponsible, dangerous and extremely damaging to media freedom and the media environment as a whole.”