Sunday, October 19

Ray Hartley, managing editor of the Sunday Times, weighs in on the news story that led to the Hefer commission into spy allegations against Bulelani Ngcuka.

It is a very good discussion on the right of news journalists to withhold their sources. On the news report itself he raises some interesting points that I have not seen anywhere else:

1. The primary source used by the journalist who wrote the story - the City Press's Elias Maluleke - is now publicly known. He obtained - or was allowed to peruse - documentation and other "corroborating" information from former Sunday Times journalist Ranjeni Munusamy, much to the distress of her then employers (The Sunday Times) .
2. She (Ranjeni Munusamy) has claimed that she has been threatened with death by these very sources, an extreme and violent action which ought, incidentally, to raise the alarm about their credibility.
3. The report was the cause of a chain of events that led to the establishment of the commission in the first place. In a very real sense, it was not an ordinary news report (and in the judgement of the editor of this newspaper, it was not a news report at all). It appears to have been a device used to intervene in dramatic fashion in the nation's political affairs.
Is such a "report" worthy of the protection accorded normal news reporting, or has it transcended journalism to take on a new life?

4. His (Judge Hefer) solution has been to rule that Munusamy ought to testify at the commission, with an important caveat: her lawyers may intervene to prevent her from answering questions which might compromise her sources or her safety.
This would seem a reasonable compromise, especially since Munusamy has willingly, if not eagerly, spoken about her story on radio, on television and in the press. She has gone so far as to actively seek publicity on the matter by issuing public statements.
Hefer's ruling has nonetheless been rejected by Munusamy.

If your interested in this I'd recommend reading the whole article. What is clear however is that the Media is not neutral in this, and that certain reporters are more then willing to go to extraordinary lengths to push certain views.

As a side interest, the involvement of so many Indian members of the community in this debacle raises many questions. The chief suspect in corruption allegation and right hand man of Zuma, Shaik, the vice-presidential hit man Maharaj, the hand picked prosecutorial attack dog Kessie Naidu and the dedicated "investigative" reporter Ranjeni Munusamy.
There have been power plays by the "Indian faction" inside the ANC before. (That whole Ghandi thing)

Mr. Mbeki and the ANC structures have refused to step into this. I suspect that things are going to get very interesting very soon as both sides abandon all restraints.


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