Would it have happened to a male editor? Verashni and the lynch mob

Date: April 24, 2017
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OPINION: Many journalists/editors have experienced the ugly side of South African journalism, including the backstabbing, the paranoia, misogyny, racism and sexism, not to mention how individuals will lie and try to undermine others to save their jobs, only to be spat out when they too have served their purpose.

The lynch mob mentality that has targeted Verashni Pillay, a young, female editor, and helped derail her career, fills me with disquiet. I cannot help but wonder whether a male editor (black or white) would have received the same treatment. [Pillay resigned on Saturday night following the press ombudsman’s ruling in the Huffington Post South Africa fake blog post matter.]

Editors, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, make mistakes. Sometimes a little experience might help in not compounding these, but I don’t think any among us can throw the first stone …

We all need to up our game in this era of fake news and newsrooms stripped of more expensive and experienced journalists and where those who remain behind have to do a lot more with a lot less.

A sorry mess

The whole Huffington Post SA saga is a sorry mess, with the press ombudsman’s ruling – or the portion on hate speech – equally problematical. I see reports that Media24 will not appeal the ruling, but a precedent should not be set. The hate speech portion of Johan Retief’s ruling cannot be allowed to remain untested, as it has huge implications for newsrooms across the country, and for freedom of speech.

I see media lawyer, Dario Milo, believes that only a party that has a direct interest in the case can appeal. Now that Verashni has resigned, perhaps she will consider appealing that portion of the judgment, and if not her, what about Sipho Hlongwane in his private capacity, should he choose to remain at the HP?

This story was first published as a Facebook post, It is republished here with permission.

Angela Quintal is the Africa Programme Co-ordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York.

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