To name or not to shame … it’s like walking the knife edge

court room. Photo: Google

In recent days we — the editor and reporters, that is — were subjected to one of the most difficult decisions in terms of editorial integrity.

There comes a time in the work of a journalist that she/he has to step back and arrive at a decision as to whether to publish or be damned.

The alternative, indeed, is to weigh up the options as to what would be the intended effect of naming someone, say, facing damning allegations of corruption.

Our pre-publication conference two Mondays ago was a tense and difficult affair.

On the occasion of Premier Stan Mathabatha’s imbizo two weeks ago, community-based leaders stood on a public platform — in full view of the Premier — to identify by name three prominent local councillors.

In letting off steam at the tense meeting, the community leaders accused the three councillors of alleged involvement in acts of sleaze.

Roving reporter Lizzy Bapela, and photographer TK Mashaba were at the scene to record it all, in terms of the allegations and pictures.

In all normal circumstances, if someone stands on a public platform to point an accusing finger at a politician or whoever, then it becomes open season for both print and electronic media, to
just publish both the names of the accuser and accused.

Look at what happened to Malusi Gigaba’s private life!

Such was our dilemma during that fateful pre-publication conference whereby, rightfully so, the reporters pressed it home on the editor that we publish the names of the accused councillors, as
they were in the public domain in anyway.

Withholding the names — the reporters argued — would not achieve anything because the masses at the imbizo knew exactly who they were, and some of the members of the audience would most
probably spread the word around the township.

My argument, never mind how weak it sounded, was that we treat with absolute caution such accusations and counter-accusations for — in the world of especially ANC politics — more often than
not, allegations of sleaze are mischievously peddled to fight internal battles.

Suffice to say the pre-2019 general elections season is gathering steam, in anyway.

In all fairness, I would have expected the accusers to stand on the public platform and confirm that a case of corruption had been opened with the police.

Such information would make it easier for The BEAT to go to the police and ask if they are investigating so-and-so — court dates and otherwise — and then we would be in a stronger position to
mention people’s names.

For the time being we await the Premier’s office to confirm — by name and rank — that the three Bela-Bela councillors were being investigated, as pronounced at the imbizo.

If we lay our hands on such a statement, then watch this space for an exposé of the worst kind, so to speak!

— The BEAT

Johnny Masilela

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