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Eyewitness News (EWN) defended its decision on Friday to broadcast the news that former president Nelson Mandela is not being treated at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
In a statement, EWN Editor-in-Chief Katy Katopodis said government officials had “misled” the South African public about the details of Mandela's hospitalisation.
Katopodis conceded that presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj did not name the hospital where Mandela was receiving treatment, but had referred only to “a Pretoria hospital”.
“But he too misled South Africa by omitting to clarify,” she said.
Katopodis said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters on Monday that Mandela was at 1 Military Hospital.
“This has left me with a great sense of unease, as it leads us to question what else government has not been open and honest about with regards to Madiba’s hospitalisation,” Katopodis said.
She called on Mapisa-Nqakula to explain why she had “deliberately misled the South African public and the media”.
Katopodis said the public had also been misled by “blue light decoy” vehicles entering and leaving 1 Military hospital and the presence of temporary security check points.
This also raised questions about whether Mandela was admitted to 1 Military Hospital in February.
Katopodis defended EWN's decision not to name the hospital where Mandela was indeed being treated, and said it was done to protect the former president's privacy and dignity.
She denied that the decision was made at the request of Maharaj.
The National Press Club called on the government to “align” its facts about Mandela's hospitalisation.
“Inconsistent messaging by government is putting progress made in earlier discussions about the coverage of this sensitive, emotive and very important issue at risk,” said press club chairwoman Antoinette Slabbert.
She said a “clear understanding” should be reached between the media and the government on how to report about Mandela's health. - Sapa