The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) on Friday said it notes the findings made by Advocate Michael Donen that the Pretoria News Editor Piet Rampedi, was “reckless when he published an article stating as fact that a woman had given birth to 10 babies, without any evidence”.
Donen investigated whether Rampedi followed due diligence when working on the story about the alleged birth of the decuplets and if there were any ethical breaches in the reporting of the story by other Independent Media publications/platforms.
At the time, Rampedi reported that the woman had given birth to decuplets – breaking the Guinness World Record.
On Wednesday, Donen said he found that at the time of publication there was no evidence that the woman had given birth to 10 babies.
“Due to the fact that the birth of decuplets is unknown in human history, I concluded that to publish a story saying the decuplets were born and that the Guinness book of world record was broken without corroboration was reckless,” said Donen.
“The only evidence that existed at the time was a report that had been made by the alleged father and he had said that his wife had told him that she gave birth to decuplets.
“I regard that according to journalistic standards as reckless and that would be so regardless of whether the current inquiry proves that.”
Independent Media launched the investigation after SANEF called for an independent inquiry.
SANEF said it will always stand for ethical journalism and the practising of credible journalism across newsrooms.
“The news story was a clear case of a gross lapse of ethical journalism that has done untold damage to the profession at a time when we are focused on rebuilding the trust relationship with the public,” said SANEF.
“The cardinal principle in journalism is to get the facts right the first time by ensuring that all the information is corroborated by more than one source.
“When the information cannot be corroborated, we owe it to our audiences to be transparent and inform them accordingly.”
SANEF said it again calls on Independent Media to rejoin the Press Council of SA, so that the company’s publications can be held to the same industry-accepted rules, as other media companies.
The Press Council allows for all media houses to be held accountable when they act in breach of the Press Code and fail to practise ethical journalism.
“It also allows for those aggrieved to be able to complain before an independent panel,” said SANEF.
“We hope Independent Media will reflect on the treatment of the story and ensure that all subsequent stories are backed up by real evidence and credible sources.
“We hope that they will also review their internal systems to ensure all stories are subjected to rigorous checks before publication.
SANEF said it has also noted subsequent claims made by Independent Media, “again without evidence.”
Independent Media this week made serious allegations of a “cover-up” involving politicians, medical professionals, and hospitals.
“We hope the promised ten-part documentary will see them abide by world accepted journalistic standards to provide evidence to all allegations.
“We have confined our comments to the part of the report that deals with journalism and do not in any way vouch for other unverified claims made, during the release of the report.”
The Gauteng Provincial Government said it was taking legal action against Independent media over claims of a “cover up” of the alleged trafficking of eight of the 10 babies. Dr. Iqbal Survé said two babies died at birth.
The national department of health is backing the Gauteng Provincial government in its action against Dr. Survé and his media group.