South Africa | FRIDAY BRIEFING | Democracy, independence and truth: Why SA media must be saved

friday briefing

Returning accountability to SA journalism 

Ethics 101. It's a course that every journalist would have taken as a student, whether they were studying for a degree or a diploma.

It is where journalists learn the principles of truthfulness, independence, minimising harm, and accountability. 

Every day, a media worker - whether they are out in the field or working on the desk - has to consider at least one of these principles. And in a world where news never sleeps, where social media has entered the fray, and where media houses are doing more with less - the situation is becoming more and more fraught, leading to cases where media ethics fall by the wayside. 

This week, the South African National Editors Forum released a report examining the country's media in the light of coverage on certain issues by the Sunday Times. 

The panel made up of retired Judge Kathy Satchwell and veteran journalists Nikiwe Bikitsha and Rich Mkhondo spent 18 months interviewing various stakeholders and experts. The end result is a comprehensive look at why everyone, not just the media, should be concerned about the future of journalism in this country. 

If democracy is going to survive in South Africa, a credible and independent media is crucial. 

The report also requires the media to critically examine itself to repair previous transgressions and ensure that readers, listeners and viewers have access to content that is truthful and accurate in a continuously changing world of journalism.

In this week's edition of Friday Briefing, News24's ombud George Claassen examines why it is crucial that media houses' independence remains sacrosanct in the face of attempted manipulation from various sources. UCT's professor of media studies, Herman Wasserman, outlines why public participation is crucial if the media is going to be held accountable while Wits' media expert Glenda Daniels details the role that burnout, anxiety, retrenchments, 24/7 work cycles have on media coverage. 

Regardless of whether you are in the media industry or not, its an important read as a consumer of news.


Vanessa Banton

Opinions Editor 

George Claassen | The ‘dead hand of politics’ endangers ethical journalism, independence is vital

George Claassen writes that the independence of newsrooms and journalists, which is vital in any democratic society and so often ignored by politicians - both the public and private sectors, as well as other powerful roleplayers - is repeatedly highlighted by the panel commissioned by Sanef to look into media ethics.

Herman Wasserman | SA media at a critical crossroads: Partnerships key to improving ethics

The best response for the media to a report looking into media credibility and ethics - and commissioned by Sanef-  would be to actively embark on coalition building, consultation and public dialogue, writes Herman Wasserman.

Glenda Daniels | Exposing the fault lines in SA media

Glenda Daniels writes that SA's journalists are suffering burnout, anxiety, retrenchments, 24/7 work cycles and do more with less in juniorised newsrooms which lack capacity, affecting credibility in the media at large.