THE actions of the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) in response to Independent Media’s Baby Trade docuseries being nominated as a finalist at the International News Media Association (INMA) Global Media Awards, is unfortunate and deeply disturbing.
Following INMA’s announcement of Baby Trade as a finalist in the category: Best Use of social media, SANEF wrote to INMA attempting to have the submission removed as a finalist and its entry disqualified. The reasons provided by SANEF, and their subsequent defamatory statement, not only demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the serious matters raised in the Baby Trade docuseries but bring their organisation’s credentials as a media representative body into disrepute.
In their partisan desperation to attack anything emanating from the Independent Media stable, SANEF has missed the vital opportunity to engage with the actual content contained in the docuseries, which raises several issues which the South African government should be held to account for and work towards preventing, such as human trafficking and the preying on vulnerable women.
This point has been completely ignored by SANEF’s pontificating that simply put, adopts the attitude of, if; ‘Government says it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.’ Since when do media organisations simply take the government's word for it?
If members of SANEF had indeed watched the Baby Trade series, then they would have seen how the series seeks to unpack the story from its inception, and by hearing directly from the characters involved, so audiences can make up their minds for themselves - the fundamentals of any docuseries and good journalism.
The fact that SANEF has once again adopted an ‘attack the messenger’ approach, only highlights their members’ own failures as media organisations, to investigate the matter objectively, instead of dismissing it just because it comes from a rival media house.
It also boggles the mind as to how SANEF can pass judgement on a story that they have not probed, not spoken to the parties directly affected, nor dispassionately assessed and interrogated the content that has been presented.
If they had done so, then they would have deciphered the following:
• Gosiame Sithole was pregnant
• Gosiame Sithole’s triplets with a previous partner are missing
• Gosiame Sithole has had other multiple births
• The Department of Social Development illegally incarcerated her in a psychiatric facility where she was detained for a considerable amount of time
• Independent experts have corroborated evidence of private investigators and investigative journalists about a baby trafficking syndicate operating out of Gauteng hospitals
• Gosiame Sithole named and identified the Doctor that facilitated the delivery of her babies and had provided her with pre- and post-natal care
• Cellular phone data corroborates Gosiame Sithole’s version of events.
If SANEF, who do not fully represent all the media in the country, were not so obsessed with fighting Independent Media and took the time to consider some of the above facts, then journalistically, they would be compelled to investigate Sithole’s story.
But this is not about journalism for SANEF, it never has been.
Apart from the above, SANEF is completely out of line in writing to INMA and accusing Independent Media of setting back advances made in protecting women and children in South Africa, when it is the exact opposite.
If anything, SANEF should be embarrassed that none of their members have chosen to tell the story of a vulnerable South African woman, whose claims and treatment at the hand of Government officials and the medical sector, should not be overlooked.
In fact, since providing Gosiame Sithole with a platform to tell her story, Independent Media has received a multitude of messages, emails and calls from other South African women who have faced a similar ordeal. This tells us we are barking up the right tree, not pandering to government denials like SANEF and other media houses. In exposing the rot, a worldwide phenomenon, we believe we are contributing to the protection of women and children, because forewarned is forearmed.
Independent Media’s view is that when looked at objectively, Gosiame Sithole’s story is a compelling and fascinating one that warrants exposure.