By: Zunaid Moti, billionaire investor and CEO of African Chrome Fields
Why doesn’t the media call something a lie when they know it’s a lie?
Why do ethical journalists and editors remain quiet when they see a media outlet make a mockery of this age-old, respected profession?
The modern news landscape is actively being violated by a band of media assassins who are determined to take down notable figures in our society.
They take pleasure in watching big men fall, even if they have to push these men down to make themselves seem taller.
These men have caused the widespread distrust and disinterest most of us now feel toward South African Journalism. Moreover, they are a corrupting influence on other reporters as well. We can no longer, in good conscience, ignore what journalism has become, and we should wake every night in a cold sweat, thinking about how these men are influencing the next generation of journalists, and how they are skewing national discourse in their perverted favour.
There are many things wrong with how a few journalists conduct themselves today. For one, we have to ask: at what point does reporting turn into harassment? Simply put, it’s when reporting on a subject violates that person’s dignity. It’s when reporting is based on false and malicious accusations, motivated by a personal vendetta, driven by generational discrimination, intended to cause harm, and is done repeatedly and excessively without a valid reason.
This is the story of amaBhungane – the so-called investigative outfit with ties to the apartheid regime – and its media mafia cohorts in a nutshell. Why should we, as a society, continue to place our trust in them? Why do the media outlets which still refuse to report on these influential figures continue to be given a voice?
How do we, as everyday people, tell what media outfits should or should not be trusted? Well, I have a simple six-point scoring system, which I call the rules of reportage and journalistic integrity, which does just that.
If a media outlet does not and cannot check the box next to every one of these points, it should not be allowed to publish a single story again, and should be shunned by society.
How do some of the popular names in the South African media fare in this regard? In my opinion, News 24 should receive a rough 4/6 marks. My reasoning? Its reporting is somewhat inconsistent, in that it generally follows most of these rules pretty well, but not always. The organisation falters whenever it ignores the rules altogether in the pursuit of a certain narrative in very specific articles or series of articles.
As for no one’s favourite so-called investigative journalism outfit, amaBhungane, it scores a resounding 0/6 – a feat I thought only achievable by one of South Africa’s many unregulated news blogs, which I think amaBhungane should also be classified as. So, what are the rules they so severely struggle with?
Report the truth and remain objective
This organisation, its managing partner Sam Sole, and one of its main journalists, Micah Reddy, have a tenuous relationship with the truth, and tend to target influential figures for seemingly personal motives.
amaBhungane, instead of touting facts, rely on speculative words that sow toxic seeds of doubt in the reader’s mind.
Their reporting loses credibility the moment they use words such as ‘seemingly’, ‘possibly’ and ‘allegedly’, ‘purportedly’, and ‘suspiciously’, among others, which are littered through their writing.
In three recent #MotiFiles articles, released back-to-back on 16 and 17 October 2023, amaBhungane used the word ‘alleged/allegedly’ an incredible 21 times. Other words closely related to ‘allegedly’, such us ‘possibly’, ‘seemingly’, ‘apparently’, and ‘appear’ show up another 42 times. It is so bad that I quickly found 89 instances of speculative words that solely exist for amaBhungane to cover for the fact that they are making unfounded assumptions.
It’s clear that these reporters either understand that they don’t have any proof to support what they’re saying, or that there is enough reasonable doubt in their claims that they shouldn’t be making them in the first place. This is not even to mention the many times they draw flimsy connections between generally unconnected ideas to push their narrative.
Provide reasonable opportunities for response
amaBhungane further likes to run with stories on complex topics either without giving their targets a reasonable time to respond, publish responses they have received without the proper context, or simply ignore feedback altogether.
Verify the accuracy and reliability of sources
In its recent persistent attacks on myself and my businesses, uninspiringly named the #MotiFiles, amaBhungane has shown that it has no intention of verifying information, and every intention of publishing tens of articles based on dubious information.
If they had bothered to contact me with their latest #MotiFiles articles, they would have known that I have had no dealings whatsoever with the VBS Mutual Bank they reference in their reporting, other than another party having sent money to one of my companies with their VBS account.
Avoid distortion and sensationalism
amaBhungane has further shown a fondness for distorting the information they do have, or believe they have, all in the pursuit of more clicks on their website – known as sensationalism. This agains touches on their tendency to use speculative words to raise suspicion on otherwise mundane situations and run-of-the-mill business transactions.
Acknowledge and correct errors promptly and transparently
Building on their perfect record of imperfect reporting, amaBhungane refuses to admit when they’re wrong, even when presented with indisputable facts that contradict their deeply held beliefs.
They are also unwilling to report on their own controversies, preferring to sweep them under the rug, as was the case with when their former-Chairman’s seedy past, marred by sexual harassment allegations, were revealed.
Respect the privacy and dignity of others.
Finally, amaBhungane and its reporters go out of their way to discredit and defame their targets with little forethought as to how it will impact that person’s livelihood and dignity. In fact, they regularly abuse their targets’ personal information, disregarding their or their family’s privacy to beef up their narratives.
Media outlets such as amaBhungane have made a name for themselves by jumping to conclusions, misrepresenting the truth, and outright lying.
They are actively misinforming the public on very serious matter, and we can no longer sit back and ignore this type of reporting. We should be terrified about the impact they’re having on our society, and we should be fighting back every chance we get.