The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) says it has “regrettably” learned about the election of freelance journalist, Edwin Ntshidi, as an ActionSA proportional representative (PR) councillor in the City of Johannesburg.
Ntshidi, who until recently had been part of Eyewitness News’ (EWN’s) team that covered the local government elections – came under fire this week after he was sworn in as a PR councillor, with some questioning his impartiality and independence as a journalist.
While it was happy that Ntshidi was no longer a reporter and his association with EWN had ceased, Sanef said it was equally concerned about his conduct and why he agreed to be an ActionSA candidate while he was reporting on politics, including the very same party he now represents in the Johannesburg council.
“It must be noted Ntshidi never disclosed to EWN his political ambitions,” Sanef said in a statement.
“Sanef takes ethical journalism, fair and balanced reporting, and the non-association of journalists with political parties seriously, hence our disappointment at this latest development.”
The editors’ forum said Ntshidi’s conduct was in contrast with the work that the entire media fraternity, Sanef and other stakeholders had been doing in regaining the lost trust in the media.
“Journalists are always advised to steer clear of conflict of interest, be trustworthy and do their work with integrity.
“Media entities in South Africa are led by editors who always encourage their journalists to be independent, and practise high standards of journalism which should not be compromised by the lure of political office.
“Our audiences, in a time we are asking them to trust us again, cannot at this point doubt our political independence.”
Conflict of interests
Sanef said whenever matters of conflict of interests arise, be it political or commercial, journalists were advised to always alert their editors so that they could act on these.
The organisation reminded journalists to abide by the South African Press Code, which states that: “The media shall not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence reporting, and avoid conflicts of interest as well as practices that could lead readers to doubt the media’s independence and professionalism.”
Meanwhile, EWN editor-in-chief Mahlatse Mahlase told News24 this week Ntshidi no longer worked for the news organisation after serving notice on 7 November.
Mahlase assured the public that Ntshidi’s coverage of elections was not comprised as there were checks and balances in place.
“We lead a team of journalists who proudly and vigorously uphold the highest editorial standards and ethics. EWN has sound editorial policies in place to ensure unbiased reporting, and stories go through a rigorous subbing process that entails more than one person approving copy,” she said.