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In the heat of the ANC’s proposed media appeals tribunal nearly a decade ago, then SACP deputy secretary Jeremy Cronin remarked: “It is difficult to engage the media in the media because one will not get home advantage.”

This statement rings true, observing the developments in the media, specifically “trash” journalism by the Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm and sordid revelations by former Sunday Times investigative reporter Piet Rampedi against his former employer, Tiso Blackstar and the role played by his journalist colleagues - notably Moshoeshoe Monare, Sthembiso Msomi, Bongani Siqoko and Andrew David Bonamour in the stories about the Sars “rogue” unit. 

This does not bode well for journalism.

Both these issues are not only about journalism ethics, but are about trust and credibility - a currency most media do not appreciate, let alone uphold. 

Instead of dealing with the elephants in the room head-on, some media houses do what they do best and resort to the ostrich approach. They would rather see no evil or hear no evil.

The Thamm story is nothing but trash and belongs in the rubbish bin. No editor worth his or her salt should have published such trash.

As much as there are ethical journalists, unfortunately, the media is littered with charlatans who have soiled the noble craft whose names deserve to be in a hall of shame. Some have even gone on to win awards. What a sham.

It’s quite ironic that these developments are making news barely a week after the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has announced an inquiry into media ethics and credibility.

This should not just be a talk-shop, but a serious introspection whereby there are no holy cows. Truth must be told and charlatans and chancers eroding media ethics and credibility should be named and shamed. There should be consequences.

This belief that those in the media will throw the basic tenets of journalism out of the window willy-nilly gives journalism a bad name and is giving defenders of ethical journalism a bad name.

Journalists must speak up against charlatans and chancers in their midst, rather than close their eyes and ears hoping that the story will die down. A charlatan is a charlatan, and ethics requires that such are exposed and isolated.

Why are we being fed such trash journalism like the Thamm story? This is despicable and a shame to the craft.

There is surely a crisis of trust between the media and the public, which, unfortunately, will give ammunition to the detractors of the freedom of the media, to attack an important pillar of our democracy.

Credibility and trust are sacrosanct as much as media freedom and editorial independence, and the public expects no less and journalists should stop skirting around the truth and deal with the problem head-on.

We cannot sit on the fence or bury our heads in the sand while rogue journalists are running riot. They don’t want to admit their bias and failure to adhere to the basic tenets of journalism. It is hypocritical to ask public representatives to resign when they are found wanting and we treat charlatan journalists with velvet gloves.

* Thema Sepotokele is a journalist, communication strategist. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media