Capetown – The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) will seek an urgent meeting with the Economic Freedom Fighters leadership to discuss the party’s threats to journalists working for the Gupta family’s media companies.
In a statement issued on Sunday – following Sanef’s council meeting in Cape Town on Saturday – Sanef executive director Mathatha Tsedu said the council was also concerned about “direct proprietal/managerial interference in editorial decision-making processes”, and had decided on further steps in this regard.
He said it had been agreed that Sanef should urgently meet the EFF leadership to “discuss the implications of their decision to threaten journalists from media outlets owned by the Gupta family”.
At a news conference in Johannesburg on February 4, EFF leader Julius Malema warned that Gupta-owned ANN7 TV news channel and The New Age newspaper will not be welcome at EFF events.
“Gupta must leave the country. We tired about talking about Guptas. We going to take practical action. Gupta media must no longer come to EFF events. We don’t want to see The New Age and ANN7. We cannot guarantee the safety of those printing New Age and ANN7,” Malema said.
The Guptas reportedly have a close relationship with President Jacob Zuma and other senior ANC and government members.
Tsedu said in the statement the Sanef council had deliberated extensively on “the changing media landscape, the commercial and other pressures, and their implications on editorial independence”.
“The consequences of such pressures have manifested themselves in the form of direct proprietal/managerial interference in editorial decision-making processes and indirectly through the blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial.
“This conflictual and strained relationship between editors and proprietors/managers has resulted in the resignation of a number of editors over the past two years – an untenable situation that threatens the very essence of media freedom that is crucial to the sustenance of our democracy,” he said.
In view of these serious threats and in recognition of the real implications of the evolvement of the industry, the council had decided to commission research on the new media landscape and possible models and solutions.
“We envisage that such a process could culminate in a meeting with media proprietors/managers to establish new rules of engagement with regard to editorial independence and ethical advertising.
“Until such time that our research is concluded, Sanef calls on proprietors and management to allow editors to exercise their editorial discretion and work without any interference.”
The council had also met the leadership of the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) and agreed that there was a need for an urgent engagement with political parties about respecting the role of the media and protecting journalists from any form of political harassment and intimidation, Tsedu said.