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Journos take issue with ANCYL spokesperson

Karabo Keepile, Sapa-AFP

A number of top South African political journalists have lodged a complaint against ANC Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu.

African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) spokesperson Floyd Shivambu on Wednesday said he will not apologise for threatening to reveal personal details of reporters’ activities, and has vowed to continue doing so following a complaint lodged against him on Tuesday.

“We will never apologise for telling the truth,” said Shivambu, who had not seen the complaint of intimidation filed by a group of reporters, but listened carefully while it was read to him over the phone.

“As responsible citizens, we have got a responsibility to express our views. Freedom of expression applies to all people.

“Freedom of expression does not mean that it is only the media that must write nonsensical allegations about political leaders.

“We have got a right as well to express whatever views we deem relevant and truthful.”

Earlier, ANCYL secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo denied having knowledge of the formal complaint that has been laid against ANCYL spokesperson Shivambu by 19 of South Africa’s top political journalists.

The complaint was lodged with the ANC, ANCYL and the South African National Editors’ Forum

“It will be unfortunate if you have a complaint with someone in the youth league and you rush to everyone except for the youth league,” Tulelo told the Mail & Guardian.

The journalists, who include M&G political reporter Mandy Rossouw and M&G political editor Rapule Tabane, have accused Shivambu of unethical behaviour, threats and bullying—and supposed access to information he shouldn’t be able to legally obtain.

The journalists say they don’t have a problem with people exposing corrupt journalists, but do have a bone to pick with Shivambu, who last week threatened several journalists when he attempted to “leak” a so-called dossier on City Press journalist Dumisane Lubisi to certain reporters.

Shivambu claimed the document came into the youth league’s possession anonymously.

“This has nothing to do with exposing corruption, but it’s a threat,” Moshoeshoe Monare, a journalist from the Independent Newspapers group, told the M&G on Wednesday.

“Looking into journalists’ personal details unlawfully, banking details etc, amounts to intimidation and an assault on media freedom,” he added.

“If the City Press journalist is corrupt, then go to the editor and tell her.”

Monare said the journalists who laid the complaint agree with the recent decision made by the Sowetan editor to suspend two allegedly corrupt journalists.

In the formal complaint (see below), the journalists “demand that Shivambu issue a public apology for his actions. Furthermore, the ANC Youth League is obliged to reveal how it had received the information and whether state or other resources were used to illegally intrude into the private lives of journalists and other individuals who may not agree with its activities.”

Monare says if this is not done, journalists will stop exposing corruption for fear that their private information may be released.

The journalists have called on the ANC and the league to distance itself from Shivambu’s shameful actions.

Read the full complaint below:

COMPLAINT AGAINST THE ANC YOUTH LEAGUE
We wish to lodge a formal complaint against ANC youth league spokesman Floyd Shivambu, who last week threatened several journalists when he attempted to “leak” a so called dossier to certain reporters.

His behaviour constitutes an attack on several freedoms including media freedom, and presents a danger to constitutional provisions South Africans enjoy. It also amounts to intimidation especially if one considers his threat to make public so called embarrassing information about the private lives of reporters.

As political journalists we reject anyone within our ranks who accepts money or payment for writing slanted stories. We hold no brief for corrupt individuals within our fraternity and encourage anyone who can prove instances where ethics have been violated to report it to the relevant authorities including editors and watch dog bodies that regulate our profession.

However, we believe that Shivambu’s actions was less about exposing unethical behaviour in the media, and had more to do with wanting to silence us with threats of public embarrassment over our private lives. We wish to place it on record that Shivambu’s efforts sought to intimidate political journalists from doing their legitimate work. 

Last week Shivambu approached several journalists with a “dossier” on City Press journalist Dumisane Lubisi, which he claims came into the youth league’s possession anonymously. He provided no proof of the allegations contained in the document, but insisted that the information contained therein was true. He then threatened the reporters who expressed concern over the accuracy of the information saying “you next” when they expressed reservations about the veracity of his claims and said they would not run the stories.

Shivambu’s efforts to bully reporters is the latest in a series of attacks on journalists by the ANC youth league. At a recent press conference addressed by ANC president Julius Malema, some youth league figures, including Malema accused journalist’s unethical behaviour and threatened to arrest those caught in alleged wrongdoing. He hurled abuse and launched personal attacks on individual journalists. Comments about their salaries, credit worthy status and sexual behaviour were made without a shred of evidence.

Of concern is the youth league’s apparent access to confidential information relating the private lives of journalists. The candour with which they rattled off confidential information points to a larger sinister pattern. If one accepts even for a minute that any of the information in the ANC youth league’s possession is true, questions arise about how it was accessed and how a political organization could obtain it without breaking the law.

We believe that if the actions of the youth league remain unchecked, it could put SA on a slippery slide where the lives of journalists could be in danger and media freedom eroded.

We demand that Shivambu issue a public apology for his actions. Furthermore the ANC youth league is obliged to reveal how it had received the information and whether state or other resources were used to illegally intrude into the private lives of journalists and other individuals who may not agree with its activities.

We call on the ANC and the league to distance itself from Shivambu’s shameful actions.

Undersigned by:
Business Day: Karima Brown, Wilson Johwa
Independent Newspapers: Moshoeshoe Monare, Gaye Davis, Xolani Mbanjwa and Carien du Plessis
Mail and Guardian: Rapule Tabane and Mandy Rossouw
The Times/ Sunday Times: Moipone Malefane, Sthembiso Msomi and Nkululeko Ncana
702: Stephen Grootes
City Press: Moffet Mofokeng, Piet Rampedi, Dumisane Lubisi, Japhet Ncube, George Matlala
Media24: Chandre Prince
eNews: Hajra Omarjee

Read the full statement in response by ANCYL leader Julius Malema issued later on Wednesday:

ANC YL RESPONSE TO A MOB OF CONCERNED JOURNALISTS

17 March 2010

The ANC Youth League received a complaint written by a mob of political Journalists who appear to be a nameless concerned group.

The complaint is based on their immature characterisation as bullying by ANC Youth League Leadership, in particular the ANCYL Spokesperson, Floyd Shivambu.

The mob of Journalists has made various allegations that the leadership of the ANC Youth League has threatened to expose their private information and will consequently result in threatening the freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution.

In their statement, the mob raises false alarms in response to a genuine case of alleged tax evasion and money laundering by City Press Journalist, Dumisani Lubisi.

The ANC Youth League will never retreat from its programme to expose the possible corruption and tax fraud of any person in South Africa and will do everything in its power to expose Millionaire Journalists who do not pay tax and cannot explain how they accumulated their wealth.

The complaint by the gang of Journalists is contrary to what they intentioned, an inspiration to pursue the case against potentially corrupt Journalists.

The leadership of the ANC YL and its Spokespersons always speak on behalf of the organisation and any attempt to isolate the any leader/member of the organisation from the organisation will be rejected with absolute contempt.

The ANC Youth League maintains the view that there are Journalists in South Africa who are corrupt. They continue to take bribes and practise infantile, racist and unethical journalism.

This is a reflection of reality and there will never be any apology for making such a correct observation. No one will ever apologise for making such a truthful observation.

Journalists in South Africa should begin to appreciate that the freedom of expression enshrined in the country’s Constitution is not solely and exclusively for Journalists and media houses. The freedom of expression expands to all citizens, including the activists and leadership of political organisations.

Journalists should also appreciate that they are citizens of South Africa before they are employees of various media houses. They therefore should stand up against all forms of corruption, fraud, racism and unethical professional practice including against colleagues in the profession.

The mob of Journalists has also assisted the ANC Youth League to identify those who are real enemies of our organisation and what they stand for. These are people consistently write nonsense about the leadership of the ANC Youth League and they have now decided to club themselves into an undefined mob.

We are aware that there are some who did not sign the petition who are enemies of the ANC Youth League and we will work very cautiously around these people. The fact that certain Journalists have signed and some did not reflects the agendas behind the signatories in the petition and fear exposure of their underhand dealings, corruption, racism and unethical behaviour.

The ANCYL does not acknowledge the ill -formed mob and will not retreat from principle. They must never expect any apology from the leadership of the ANC Youth League for standing up to principle. Because this mob is not properly defined, the ANC YL will never meet them as a group. Those that have concerns should arrange to meet the ANC Youth League one by one and raise their specific concerns.

Issued by the President of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema

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