UPDATE: 20 MARCH 2013
After securing agreement from all relevant sides, Wits Vuvuzela is finally able to publish a series of letters that Dr Last Moyo wrote to Prof Anton Harber in his capacity as the Head of the Department of Journalism which produces the Wits Vuvuzela. In these letters, Moyo details his concerns about the way in which the story of sexual harassment allegations against him were handled.
The official Wits Vuvuzela response:
We do not accept that Wits Vuvuzela behaved unethically or unprofessionally, and we stand by our story. Dr Moyo is concerned that the reporter herself made accusations against him. But stories often originate from the personal experience of reporters and handling potential conflicts of interest can be complex. In this case, we believe that this position needed to be spelt out for the reader, which was why the reporter wrote her own first-person story.
We took the view that it would have been inappropriate to hide the reporter’s position.
We accept that it could have been handled differently, and that it should have been made clear to Dr Moyo that one of his interviewers was in this dual position. However, there is no evidence that this affects the veracity of the story, as she was just one of a number of accusers. Just the opposite: her experience adds weight to the accusations.
The Wits Media Code allows for independent arbitration. If Dr Moyo is not satisfied with our response, he can lay a complaint with the Dean of Students who will then
convene the Media Board to adjudicate on the issue.
LETTER FROM DR LAST MOYO (11 March 2013): Apology and retraction from Vuvuzela
Following my e-mail communication with Professor Harber over the unethical and unprofessional way the news report about the alleged sexual harassment story about me was handled, I have now consulted widely to get other expert opinions about the issue. Indeed, it does seem that the editor of Vuvuzela completely failed to observe the most basic journalism standards and as a result the credibility of the story you published is severely compromised.
That loss of credibility not only affects my interests as the accused, but also those of the complainants. For my part, I would like Vuvuzela to acknowledge publicly the unethical way with which the story was reported and also put an apology to me clearly stating that for those reasons the story’s credibility is in question. I would also request that I be given some space to respond and state my case to the university public against Vuvuzela’s type of reporting. Prof let me kindly tress three important points to you and the editor:
Thank you for the response Anton. It is not the weight of the story in journalistic terms that I am contesting. Any newspaper would certainly have liked to report such a story. However, I am querying the process of reporting that story. Let me make it clear to you that the student came to my office in her capacity as a journalist from Vuvuzela and NOT an alleged victim of my alleged sexual harassment.
There is a world of difference here. If she had disclosed to me that she was interviewing me as a victim or survivor of my alleged sexual harassment I would not have granted her the interview for the mere reason that it leaves me very vulnerable. An accuser to me is certainly an interested party in the whole story and would have been foolish to grant that interview. So the student journalist did not disclose her full identity to me and nowhere in the story is her double identity fully acknowledged. But suppose it had been, there would still be a major problem based on journalism ethics:
1. How can an accuser be truthful, honest, objective and accurate in reporting the accused? She already stands in a position of symbolic power to frame and report the story in her favor; and to select and exclude material that privileges her allegations.
2. There is also a major risk here. What if the accuser is friends with people that are also making these allegations against me? What would prevent them colluding to fabricate stories against me for one reason or the other?
3. Prof I honestly think that there was an oversight over this issue. Under the circumstances, I think it would have been better to either pass the story to a different newspaper or ask a different reporter in Vuvuzela to report the story.
LETTER FROM DR LAST MOYO (08 March 2013): Ethical concern over sexual harrassment story
ORIGINAL: 15 MARCH 2013
Media Studies senior lecturer Dr Last Moyo has objected to elements of Vuvuzela’s story last week in which a number of students made allegations of sexual harassment against him.
“The editor of Vuvuzela completely failed to observe the most basic journalism standards and as a result the credibility of the story you published is severely compromised,” Moyo said in a letter to the head of Wits Journalism.
Moyo’s objection was to the fact that the story was written by a student who, herself, had a complaint against him. He said that this student had not made this clear when she put the story to him.
“My request for an apology should not absolve me of the claims made by my alleged accusers,” he said. Moyo has denied the accusations and called for an official inquiry into his conduct.
*Vuvuzela responds: “Stories often originate from the personal experience of reporters and handling potential conflicts of interest can be complex. In this case, we believe that this position needed to be spelt out for the reader, which was why the reporter wrote her own first-person story. We took the view that it would have been inappropriate to hide the reporter’s position.
“We accept that it could have been handled differently, and that it should have been made clear to Dr Moyo that one of his interviewers was in this dual position. However, there is no evidence that this affects the veracity of the story, as she was just one of a number of accusers. Vuvuzela stands by its report.”