The SABC has been ordered to apologise to the Mail & Guardian newspaper for broadcasting an “inaccurate” and “distorted” story about one of the newspaper’s journalists.
The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) found that, in neglecting to give journalist Sam Sole the right to reply to allegations that he accepted a R900 bribe and was guilty of racial bias, the SABC failed in its obligation to publish truthful and unbiased news in an ethical manner.
The allegations against Sole were made by IT businessman Robert Gumede in a report on the SABC on 4 November. In the insert, broadcast on SABC 3 and SAfm, Sole was accused of accepting bribes from British businessman John Sterenborg in return for publishing damaging allegations of corruption against Gumede.
“Here’s a payment, one of the first payments that Sterenborg made out to a journalist who is an award-winning journalist, so-called investigative journalist who goes out to attack black people, to say that they are corrupt, they bribe people and here it is,” Gumede said in the report.
The BCCSA said the report was “serious” and “damaging”. “The allegations made by Gumede against Sole are very serious and damaging. Sole’s credibility as an investigative journalist was questioned and he was not afforded the opportunity to defend himself. The SABC is clearly biased against the Mail & Guardian.”
The authority said the broadcaster had “intentionally or negligently” distorted and misrepresented the facts of the story, “in particular, the allegation that Sterenborg paid Sole a bribe”.
It said the SABC had failed to contact Sole and had approached the Mail & Guardian only an hour-and-a-half before the story was to be aired. Gumede was contacted three-and-a-half hours earlier.
“The SABC has failed to comply with the BCCSA code of conduct by broadcasting the Gumede-Mail & Guardian story in a manner which is inconsistent with the requirements of the code of conduct.
“The BCCSA is requested to order the SABC to broadcast an apology to the Mail & Guardian and Sole on the SABC 3 7pm news bulletin and on the SAfm 6am and 7am news. The apology must be given the same prominence as the original broadcast.”
The SABC said it believed it had not contravened the code. — Sapa