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HuffPost removes Madikizela-Mandela 'StratCom' video

HuffPost's video features an excerpt in which Madikizela-Mandela addresses her relationship with the media.

A screengrab from a HuffPost South Africa interview with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Picture: Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - HuffPost South Africa has taken down a video clip in which the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela discusses media smear campaigns launched against her during apartheid, and has sparked fierce conversations on social media lately.

On 4 April, two days after Madikizela-Mandela's death, HuffPost posted a video clip from an interview conducted with her in June 2017, after the initial screening of the now much-talked about Winnie documentary that same year.

Winnie was broadcast for the first time on public television on eNCA on Wednesday, 11 April.

In Winnie, Vic McPherson, former director of an operative called StratCom (Strategic Communications), talks about how StratCom was set up by the apartheid government to, among other things, launch smear campaigns against anti-apartheid fighters using various media platforms and journalists and how Madikizela-Mandela was one of the main targets.

HuffPost's video features an excerpt in which Madikizela-Mandela addresses her relationship with the media.

"In the years I got... terribly disillusioned with the media because some of them were used by the then apartheid state. There were reporters who specialised in writing very negative stories about me like Thandi [Thandeka] Gqubule... Nomavenda... They were working for what was then called the Weekly Mail [now the Mail & Guardian]. I was pleasantly surprised to see Anton Harber [former eNCA editor-in-chief] talking like that because he was editor... and the Weekly Mail was so anti-ANC, anti-me. They actually did the job for StratCom," she says.

The video, reposted on social media by a private account and captioned "#Winnie name drops some of the 40 journalists working for STRATCOM" went viral, with many accusations and threats launched against Gqubule and Harber.

HuffPost says it removed the video "because Gqubule and Harber's comments were not included".

"Gqubule and Harber are journalists who have reputations for being honest and principled. We respect them both. The video clip should not have been published without first seeking their views," the site says.

HuffPost has apologised to both journalists for its "editorial oversight".

Harber has taken to his Twitter account to defend himself, while Gqubule is yet to make any public statement.

CAUTION AGAINST UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS AGAINST JOURNALISTS

The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has warned against what it calls unsubstantiated allegations that have emerged against journalists since Madikizela-Mandela's passing.

In a statement released on Friday, Sanef mentions HuffPost's video and says it fully acknowledges the brutality of the apartheid regime, and its misinformation campaigns but says the “rumours” about certain journalists are irresponsible.

“Given this contest of lies and propaganda, we believe that it’s critical that concrete evidence is brought forward to substantiate the claims that specific journalists supported the apartheid security establishment. In the absence of any such evidence, the circulation of unsubstantiated rumours is irresponsible and dangerous," Sanef says.

CALLS FOR STRATCOM JOURNALISTS TO 'COME FORWARD AND APOLOGISE' OR BE EXPOSED

Prior to the release of Sanef's statement, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) condemned its silence and called on the 40 journalists who worked with StratCom to confess and ask for forgiveness and if they don't, the EFF "will reveal their names one-by-one".

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