The challenges reporters face are varied and ongoing.

By Excel Fongoma and Malikana Mulele

Journalists are facing threats in the newsroom, especially when it pertains to the expression of freedom of speech. This dilemma proves to be difficult and challenging, particularly when reporting on investigative stories, as they require high standards of accuracy and accountability.

During the opening panel at the 15th African Investigative Journalism Conference, senior journalists discussed how journalists have been attacked and harassed while doing their jobs.

Editor-in-chief at News24, Adriaan Basson explained that there has been continuous attacks on social media, targeting especially female journalists. He added, “they are attacked in the most vulgar way.” Furthermore, he also pointed an accusatory finger at Twitter and Facebook for being slow at blocking perpetrators of hate speech soon after they are flagged or reported as harmful.

“I had an argument with someone on Facebook on the definition of hate speech and we discovered that it can only be defined as hate speech if someone is openly threatened according to Facebook,” said Basson. He continued, that if someone attacks you on social media as a journalist it takes a long time for the Facebook user to be blocked after being reported.

Associated Press journalist, Maggie Michael, said, “if you want to stay in Egypt as a journalist you must avoid doing investigative stories about the country. Because of the rampant threats in investigative journalism, many have to leave the country in order to report that story.” Michael said that she has experienced death threats, and has had to relocate to another country in order to safely report on her own.

Sam Sole, co-founder of investigative journalism organisation amaBhungane emphasised that it is crucial to follow a strong story lead when starting out on a story. Getting your facts straight from the start means you will be better prepared if you face threats down the line. He added that accuracy and accountability is the key when reporting, because “journalists are the gatekeepers to a large audience.”

The threats journalists face, such as death threats, continue, and as a result, some journalists have had to take drastic actions. The importance of accuracy and independence of media remains crucial in the face of this.

FEATURED IMAGE: Editor-in-chief at News24, Adriaan Basson speaks about threats against journalists and the victimisation of female reporters as one of the panelists at the #AIJC19 opening plenary at the Wits Science Stadium on October 28. Photo: Jabulile Mbatha