South African media has been chided over its failure to exercise caution in its reporting of the ‘Zimbabwean rendition’ saga.
The former head of the country’s Independent Police Inspectorate Department (IPID), Robert McBride told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that no caution was exercised when dealing with the sensitive matter. Said McBride:
The issue is that it was the Sunday Times that started the story in 2011 and the Werksmans report was used by people who had an interest in proving the accuracy of the initial stuff which they had leaked.
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Journalists should have healthy cynicism like an investigator should have. The Sunday Times, in this case, should have been suspicious about the leaks.
Even by the time, they broke the story they were aware that the story had changed from when the reported on it initially.
… There was a lot going and a whole wiping out of the anti-corruption independent bodies, surely some caution should have been exercised as to the way in which firstly the report was handled before it was leaked to media, and the media should have asked ‘has this been considered by the minister?’, ‘can you back-up what is being said?
I know the media like a scoop, but you should have alarm bells ringing when you are seeing independent anti-corruption institutions being wiped out. Something should ask you to ask ‘what is happening?’. What was their agenda?
The Zimbabwe rendition saga refers to stories published by South Africa’s leading newspaper, the Sunday Times where they alleged that South African police and investigative arms were conniving with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to illegally exchange prisoners with South Africa.
The South African authorities would then deport suspects to Zimbabwe where they would be tortured and die.
The reports have since been proved false and the journalists at the centre of the controversy, Stefan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, admitted to reporting untruths.