DA leader Helen Zille. Photo: Dumisani Dube

Cape Town - DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has taken to Twitter to criticise journalists who she feels are allowing political bias to influence their work.

The “twar”- or “Twitter war” - began on Sunday when City Press political reporter Carien du Plessis retweeted an @TrendsSthAfrica tweet which included the hashtag #daisajoke.

Du Plessis added the comment: “Elections war heating up on Twitter.”

Zille replied: “And you, as a reporter, are trending for distorted, inaccurate, biased and unprofessional reporting. Top of the log.”

She later added: “She always distorts. She once told me she was planning to vote EFF, and that is quite obvious in her writing.”

City Press editor Ferial Haffajee jumped to Du Plessis’s defence, calling her a “fine journalist”.

“Goodness me, what a bad bout of cyber-bullying, @helenzille what’s your mum’s number? I need to have a word,” she tweeted.

Later that day, Gavin Davis, DA communications director, tweeted: “So, apparently gratuitous reliance on ‘anonymous sources’ is now considered ‘journalism’. Some reporters allow themselves to be abused.”

Zille then edited Davis’s tweet, added comment and directed Sunday Independent reporter Shanti Aboobaker towards it.

“This one’s for you @Shantiaboobaker RT @gavdavis: ‘anonymous sources’ now pass for ‘journalism’ 4 reporters who let themselves be used,” she tweeted.

Tweeter Funzi Ngobeni then entered the conversation and tweeted: “Shem, we must give credit to Cde @ShantiAboobaker for relentlessly writing hogwash about @DA_News. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed Cadre!”

This was retweeted by Zille.

Aboobaker responded by denying she wrote “hogwash” and later added she stood by her work.

Zille wrote a string of tweets on Sunday afternoon which responded to criticism she had received for her attack on the pair.

“I will defend journalists’ RIGHT to write rubbish. But I will not remain silent about the rubbish they write. Others also have rights.

“Criticising biased, unprofessional and inaccurate journalism does NOT undermine media freedom. It promotes it.

“It is amazing how some journalists think that criticising bad journalism is attacking freedom of the press. We ALL have freedom of opinion!

“On plane now. I must take the cabin attendant more seriously than I take journalists.”

Zille added on Monday morning: “Suggesting that criticising bad journalism undermines free press is like saying criticism of politicians undermines mutli-party (sic) democracy.” - Cape Times