The “Tembisa 10” series from Independent Media and Inma G…

Independent Media Video Series baby trade – on baby trafficking born out of the infamous tenfold hoax – is a finalist for the International News Media Association’s (Inma) Global Media Awards 2022, and the South African National Publishers Forum (Sanef) strongly opposed, calling for the immediate removal of the shortlist.

To sum up, in June 2021, Pretoria News made international headlines when the outlet’s editor, Piet Rampedi, published an article claiming that Tembisa’s mother, Gosiame Sithole, had broken a world record in giving birth to 10 babies (tenfold).

It turned out that tenfolds never existed.

In response to the backlash, Iqbal Survé, chairman of Independent Media – which owns Pretoria News – doubled down on the story,
presenting to the public a QAnon-like theory in October 2021 that he believed the missing tenfold could be linked to a baby-trafficking scandal, which he said happens daily in Gauteng hospitals.

Independent Media has produced a mini-series on baby trafficking, which has now been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Use of Social Media category at the Inma Global Media Awards.

This despite Independent Media’s internal ombudsman ruling in July 2021 that Rampedi’s tenfold story was a “hoax” who “failed to convey the basic principles of journalism”.

According to the description from Independent Media’s video series on Inma’s website, after the tenfold story was decried as “fake news”, Independent Media launched several “investigations”, which concluded that it was most likely Sithole was pregnant and gave birth to several babies and there was a likelihood of a trafficking ring in South Africa.

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On Tuesday, Sanef announced that she was “appalled by the withholding of a false report of the so-called birth of tenfolds in Gauteng” and urged Inma to remove the shortlist, pointing out that the tenfold report had been condemned by the province of Gauteng. government, the medical fraternity of South Africa and the Independent Media internal ombudsman.

Sanef said: “WWe urge Inma, as a company associated with reputable publishers around the world, to immediately remove the shortlist of this piece from this category.

Sanef wrote directly to Inma, but the series remains a finalist, and Inma responded by saying the judges would “judge the quality of the social media campaign – not the story itself.”

Inma, said the association, is “not in a position to reconsider the decision of its jury to pre-select the campaign on social networks; given the information they have during the judging process in February 2022, additional context surrounding the story will be weighed in the ongoing winner selection process to be announced by Inma in June 2022.”

Sanef said this response was “unfortunately not good enough for Sanef, as it legitimizes a campaign born out of a story that has proven not only ridiculous, but also embarrassing for South African journalism.”

“This report has no basis in truth, is factually inaccurate and contributes to the spread of misinformation, deliberately misleading the public. It is now public knowledge and widely accepted that the article perpetuates misinformation and has been reported for its complete lack of verification and its deeply dubious “sources”.

Thomas Baekdal, who is one of the media experts judging the Inma Global Media Awards 2022, spoke publicly on Twitter about Independent Media’s entry, saying: “This should very clearly render the entry invalid. .”

Inma announced 333 finalists for its Global Media Awards 2022 on March 8, on the theme “How to capture audiences and keep them close to the brand”.

The winners will be announced on June 9, but the judging was organized in February by 50 media experts from 24 countries.

Independent media described their entry titled “Baby Trade – Tracking down the truthas a video series “which deals with the specter of human trafficking in South Africa, grew out of the story that made headlines around the world.”

“The story was initially welcomed for the celebration it should have been, but was quickly decried afterwards as ‘fake news’.

“Without making any investigation to prove otherwise, the South African media immediately castigated Independent Media and Piet Rampedi, editor of Pretoria Newswho broke the news.

“Our main objectives for the project were:

  1. Investigate and bring to light the truth about the Decuplets, their whereabouts and Gosiame Sithole.
  2. Investigate and expose corrupt elements within the state and the medical fraternity complicit in the trafficking.
  3. Have the matter thoroughly investigated by the state.
  4. Use the video series to attract the audience. »

Conflict of interest?

Attempts to reach Survé or Rampedi for comment were unsuccessful on Wednesday. Daily Maverick will add this comment as soon as it is received.

UPDATE Thursday, April 7, 2022: After being contacted for comment, Inma CEO Earl J Wilkinson issued a statement following the initial publication of this article, indicating that the entry had been removed as a finalist.

“After the shortlist for the Inma Awards competition was made public on March 8, some concerns were brought to our attention regarding a social media campaign promoting a baby trade story in South Africa.

“Inma understands how important trust is to news media. The screening process can be, and in this case has been, used to provide additional information that judges did not have access to at the time of judging.

“Given the opportunity to review information from all parties related to the concerns raised, our international judges have reconsidered the entry, and it is no longer a finalist. We respect the jury’s decision.

“Inma looks forward to revealing the winners of the Global Media Awards on June 8.”

Responding to criticism, an article on the IOL website said Sanef’s actions were “irrelevant, unfortunate and deeply disturbing”.

“The reasons provided by Sanef, and their subsequent defamatory statement, not only demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the serious issues raised in the Baby Trade docuseries, but discredit their organization’s credentials as a representative body of the media. “

“This point has been completely ignored by the pontificator de Sanef who, quite simply, adopts the attitude of if; “The government says it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.” Since when do media organizations just take the government at its word?

“If the members of Sanef had actually watched the Baby Trade series, they would have seen how the series seeks to unpack the story from its inception, and by hearing directly from the characters involved, so that the audience can decide for themselves – the fundamentals of any docu-series and good journalism.

He concluded: “The Independent Media view is that, when examined objectively, Gosiame Sithole’s story is compelling and compelling and deserves to be told.” DM

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