FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 13 April 2018
Call for calm and reflection
Stracom’s strategy was “70% truth and 30% lies” said Winnie Madikizela Mandela in a video clip posted on the Huffington Post’s Website (The clip has since been removed, here’s why: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/pieter-du-toit/winnie-and-stratcom-why-we-removed-the-video-clip_a_23410261/). It seems that this exact strategy is being played out some 23 years later where the reputations of some in the media are being dragged through the mud, and in some cases, people named are having their lives threatened.
It is very likely that a search for media coverage of Madikizela Mandela would yield a great deal of negative coverage of her and her actions, and indeed the Weekly Mail and the journalists named in the clip may well have written negative and even scathing articles about both her and the ANC. There is the 70% truth. The 30% lies enter when the leap is made to suggest that such coverage meant that because they did some of those pieces they were spies and in the employ of Stratcom. The claims are baseless and offensive.
Perhaps one of the most concerning elements of the Huffington Post’s decision to post the clip to begin with was the abject failure to adhere to the basic tenets of professional ethical journalism. To publish a clip where certain claims are made, and to not seek out those named for a right of reply is a serious failure of basic journalist ethics. The breach is even more serious if we take into account the nature of the claims being potentially explosive and the clip being played when the nation is in mourning, and where tensions are high over the contested legacy of Winnie Madikizela Mandela. It is a positive step that the Huffington Post has taken the clip down but already huge damage has been done.
We understand that those named will be taking action, as is their right. It is equally critical that the Huffington Post also investigate how basic ethics were ignored, that they take the public into their confidence as to what happened and what steps will be taken to ensure that such violations don’t occur again.
There is a great deal of anger, understandably so, being expressed towards those journalists who worked for Stratcom. They sought to actively misinform and destroy people, stir hatred and distrust among those fighting for democracy. While the anger is justified, we need to be careful that in our desire for those in the service of Stratcom to be exposed we must avoid a witch-hunt. We have heard that the lives of those named have not only had to face insult and trolling but that they have also had their lives threatened.
We have seen the disastrous consequence of threatening journalists lives all over the world, more recently we saw the impact it had not just on the lives and abilities of the SABC8 under Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s rule at the SABC but also on the censorship that resulted.
Zane Dangor, tweeted,”Stratcom is alive and well. Still strategically destroying the reputations of struggle icons, just like they did with Ma Winnie. The question to answer always, is, “who benefits?”. Politically and otherwise.”
He is correct, it is exactly the kind of witch-hunt that we are witnessing that the apartheid agents and thugs would have wanted. By allowing it to fester, by allowing people to be vilified with no evidence or opportunity to have their side heard we are playing right into the hands of Stratcom, PW Botha and his ilk would be delighted.
We call on the public to exercise cool heads, to allow our nation to mourn and to act when there is evidence, not merely allegations.
For More information, please call:
William Bird 082 887 1370 or,
Thandi Smith 073 470 7306