The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has urged the public to exercise caution when dealing with allegations that journalists colluded with the apartheid government.
"Sanef fully acknowledges the brutality of the apartheid regime and its misinformation campaigns. Given this context of lies and propaganda‚ we believe it is critical that concrete evidence is brought forward to substantiate claims that specific journalists supported the apartheid state’s security establishment‚" the forum said in a statement.
"In the absence of any such evidence‚ the circulation of unsubstantiated rumours is irresponsible‚ dangerous and extremely damaging to media freedom and the media environment as a whole. Further‚ we believe it puts journalists at serious risk of physical harm and having their credibility unnecessarily questioned."
The allegations emerged in a documentary on the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela‚ which contained claims that 40 journalists had collaborated with apartheid officials to discredit the struggle icon.
After the film was aired this week‚ a video clip emerged in which Madikizela-Mandela names a journalist whom she accuses of having been paid by the apartheid government to write negative articles about her. The clip appears to be part of the material shot for the documentary‚ but was not featured in the final version.
Both sets of footage have sparked an outcry among Madikizela-Mandela’s supporters and her detractors.
"We would like to call for cool heads‚ so that we can have a sober debate about ways to cherish Mama Winnie’s legacy in building a truly democratic nation. That is a nation where conflicts and debates are handled in an open‚ democratic fashion‚ without the kind of smear campaigns that were prevalent during the apartheid era‚" the organisation said.