Sunday Times asked to return journalism award for tainted 'death squad' stories

The Sunday Times has officially been stripped of the journalism award given for its controversial reporting on the Cato Manor 'death squad'.

The conveners of the Taco Kuiper Award decided to investigate the allegations that the paper ran 'tainted' scoops on the so-called death squads in 2011.

It's since been alleged that the reports on the Cato Manor killings were used to push an agenda that led to the suspension of KZN’s Hawks head, Johan Booysen.

The journalists involved in the story were Stephan Hoffstatter, Mzilikazi wa Africa and Rob Rose.

Anton Harber, a convener of the Taco Kuiper Award, says the judging panel had received a motivation from Booysen to review the award at the same time that the publication took the decision to withdraw the stories.

Read: Major General Johan Booysen says he feels vindicated by Sunday Times apology

Harber says the while elements of the story had merit, "shoddy journalism", "questionable witnesses" and lack of verification made it unreliable.

There was a legitimate investigation into that Cato Manor Hawks unit that was justified, but unfortunately they messed up the story.

Anton Harber, Adjunct professor of journalism - Wits University

The result had serious consequences for individuals, the Hawks and the whole state capture agenda.

Anton Harber, Adjunct professor of journalism - Wits University

He says the journalists involved did not apply critical scrutiny to the story and sources used while investigating.

We ran our own investigation and came to the conclusion that there were major problems with the story.

Anton Harber, Adjunct professor of journalism - Wits University

There were factual inaccuracies, errors and gaps in the story.

Anton Harber, Adjunct professor of journalism - Wits University

Elements of the story allowed themselves to be led along by people whose intentions were politically motivated and not the truth

Anton Harber, Adjunct professor of journalism - Wits University

Harber says journalists need to be held more accountable for their negligence.

Listen to the full discussion on Afternoon Drive with Joanne Joseph:


This article first appeared on 702 : Sunday Times asked to return journalism award for tainted 'death squad' stories


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