Journos must be independent - Sanef

Time of article published Feb 16, 2014

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Johannesburg -

The public should not doubt the political independence of journalists, the SA National Editors' Forum said on Sunday.

“Editors are the guardians of the highest standards of journalism in their newsrooms and must at all times ensure that journalists do not conduct themselves in a manner that could lead audiences to doubt their political independence,” Sanef said in a statement after its quarterly council meeting in Cape Town on Saturday.

It has compiled a discussion document on journalists belonging to political parties.

“The document will be tabled at the next council meeting in June. This arose as a result of a need to provide guidance in relation to matters of conflicts of interest.”

Sanef said there was a need to make newsrooms aware of potential conflicts of interest, either political or commercial. It further resolved to create a media freedom defence fund to pay for legal challenges in defence of media freedom.

Last year it was alleged that several journalists had submitted their names for the Democratic Alliance's parliamentary list for the upcoming general election.

In November, Sunday Times executive editor Brendan Boyle was suspended after allegedly applying to become a DA MP. It was reported that Boyle sent his curriculum vitae, which was later withdrawn, to the party as part of his application.

Last month, senior Business Report journalist Donwald Pressly was suspended after allegedly applying to be on the DA's list of parliamentary candidates.

In August, Sanef encouraged members of the public and parties to complain to the Press Ombudsman if they believed a story was written due to political or other influences.

“As Sanef, we recommend that once the name of a journalist appears, with his or her consent, on a political party's official list of candidates to the Independent Electoral Commission, such journalist should resign his or her position as a journalist, even though they might not be guaranteed a seat after the election,” it said at the time. - Sapa

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