Weekly Xposé founder Kenny Kunene was on SAFM this morning with Sakina Kamwendo unpacking the concept of fake news in the South African media landscape, and did not mince his words that “there is an orchestrated campaign by mainstream media”.
South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) chairperson Mahlatse Gallens said that Sanef has continued to say “we have to live up to the prescripts of the press code and we are regulated in that way and we have to live up to that”. She argued that it is not because mainstream media is failing that there is fake news. “Partly why there’s a rise is because people are wanting to influence the political discourse,”she said. There is also clickbait, she argued, saying that people are chasing money. “We have been quite worried with so-called paid twitter, for instance in a campaign against Pravin Gordhan – this shows an orchestrated campaign… There are avenues to lay complaints.”
Kunene was having none of it, and in typical style he went straight to the point.
“Who are the architects of fake news?” he asked. “The big media houses are the biggest architects of fake news, fake political and fake celebrity news.” Kunene backed up his statement by what he called an increasing number of apologies being written after stories about politicians and celebrities. “That shows that if you have to apologise, you wrote fake news.” Gallens took an opposing view, arguing that apologies are a positive sign, especially that they are being displayed in more prominent positions.
Kunene hit back immediately. “This is the very problem I have with Sanef,” he said, arguing that within fake news there is a new subsection called hidden news. “With fake news there is a new phenomenon – hidden news. Mahlatsi talks about fake news with paid twitter, but Sanef does not see twitter campaign against the President as orchestrated.”
Kunene raised the ANN7 story on Treasury this weekend that spoke about a report detailing mishandling of public money. “If the same story was about current Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, everyone including SABC, would have picked up on the story. The mainstream media has an orchestrated agenda that Gordhan and Trevor Manuel can not be written negatively about. Why is there no noise about it [the ANN7 expose on Treasury] on Monday?”
Kunene spoke about the Sunday Times lead on Sunday, which coincided with an ANC NEC meeting, that he said named people who were not given right to reply. Kunene argued that this was a sign of an agenda, that journalists were fed fake news as part of a clear agenda against the President.
Gallens responded that fake news relates directly to lies and people cannot label something fake news just because they don’t like it. Kunene agreed with this, but took aim directly at Sanef and the Press Council.
“I don’t think that self-regulation of the media works. It works for them and not the public. Where do they get their funding from? Sanef and the Ombudsman, for instance, is funded by media houses, so their existence is paid for by the media houses. How are you going to act aggressively in the interest of South Africans against the hand that feeds you?”
Kunene mentioned the case of Steven Motale and The Citizen, accusing Sanef of not paying attention to the case, which The Citizen lost, because they are beholden to The Citizen. Gallens disagreed, and said Sanef took it very seriously, admitting that Sanef is worried about editorial interference.
Kunene ended the debate with a proposal: “I propose that there is an independent media tribunal, to regulate journalists, where he knows that if he writes lies he must lose his job. I am not saying it must be government. This way we will protect ordinary people in the streets. A ‘sorry’ means nothing when you have lost your job or your wife because of a fake news story.”
- Weekly Xpose Staff