SA National Editors’ Forum deeply concerned by Jacques Pauw’s ’ethical breaches’
Cape Town – Veteran investigative journalist Jacques Pauw has apologised for what he deemed to be ’’mistakes’’ he made in an opinion piece in the Daily Maverick, but the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) regards it in a far more serious light.
Sanef said in a statement on Wednesday it is deeply concerned and disappointed by Pauw’s ethical breaches. It said this development highlights the bitter struggle of integrity and ethics the media is grappling with ahead of its Media Ethics and Credibility Summit.
’’Last Friday, Pauw penned a lengthy piece about his apparent arrest and detention by the police at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. He wrote that he was ’stunned and dazed when pounced on by police, arrested, jailed and charged with theft’ and alleged mistreatment by police, whom he also accused of stealing his money.
’’The article was published on 12 February, after his arrest on 6 February and an appearance in court on Monday 8 February. Pauw and Daily Maverick have since retracted the column and apologised for what was clearly a fabrication.’’
Pauw blamed intoxication and a ’’blurred memory of the incident’’ at the Waterfront on February 6 for false allegations he made against the police and restaurant management and staff. This came after his credit card had been declined at the restaurant and he had gone to an ATM to settle his R1 600 bill, resulting in him being arrested.
In his statement, Pauw said he had realised the “errors in his column” after watching video evidence and having met the V&A Waterfront management and the police.
He said he also had a meeting with the owner of the unnamed restaurant and has since apologised for his actions and also extended an apology to the three police officers whom he had accused of theft. Pauw also appealed to the public to discontinue the backlash against the Waterfront and its restaurants.
Sanef said: ’’These very problematic incidents cause the public to doubt the media’s credibility and further erode the fragile relationship between law enforcement and the media…
’’Pauw and Daily Maverick noted that after obtaining the CCTV footage and ’given the factual inaccuracies in the original column’, they have ’unpublished the piece’.
’’Sanef believes that this ethical breach undermines the work currently under way to rebuild trust between the media and the public. Editors and journalists must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.
’’The public expects the truth from us at all times. We must also not abuse our privilege of access to media platforms and the might of our pens.
’’Along with other ethical breaches within the industry, we will also use the opportunity to reflect on these developments and how they impact the industry.’’
Meanwhile, many social media users aren’t buying his apology and slammed Pauw’s actions
Pauw, who is the author of The President’s Keepers, last week alleged in a column in the Daily Maverick that the restaurant had refused to allow him alternative means to settle his R1 600 bill after his credit card bounced several times while attempting pay, and intimated that it had instead called the police to arrest him while walking to an ATM.
He further alleged that the police had stolen his cash, before detaining him overnight and charging him with theft.
In a statement on Tuesday, Pauw backtracked on his original version and pointed out that he had wrongly created an impression that the restaurant’s management or the waiter who had served him had called the police to have him arrested, while he was the one who had misbehaved and had been intoxicated.
He said he had written the column after appearing before the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on a charge of theft, which he said he still disputed.
“I wrote the article because I was emotional, angry, and humiliated by the entire experience,” Pauw said.
He said he had since realised “that there are errors in the article” after reflection and upon additional evidence.
“I had too much to drink in the restaurant and my memory was blurred. The ordeal of the experience of the arrest and having to spend the night in jail compounded my emotional state. I had a meeting with the restaurant owner and a conversation with a V&A executive this Monday. They showed and explained certain facts to me. I misbehaved and I wish to apologise for my behaviour,” he said.
Many well-known journalists and social commentators have slammed Pauw’s actions and are not buying his apology.