The Sunday Times did not steal the medical
records of the Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the paper’s editor
Mondli Makhanya told the Power Reporting Workshop in Johannesburg, writes Phakamisa Ndzamela.

 
The documents that were in our possession
were copies of the original documents; we don’t know what happened to the
originals,” he said.

The three-day conference got underway at
the education campus of Wits
University on Tuesday.

Makhanya added that he had no regrets for running
the story, but conceded that the paper had been put under a great deal of
pressure from both members of the public and politicians.

Makhanya told delegates that the article
had invited vicious responses and the Sunday Times was accused of carrying out political
vendettas.

“It has been a difficult period for the
Sunday Time. There have been other pressures including commercial pressures.” He
said it was a question of how you keep the public on your side.

He said that when the Minister of Health
was asked for her response, the Sunday Times had received three different
answers within three hours.

“The first answer was that she [Minister of
Health] had not consumed anything. The second stated that the only time alcohol
went to the minister’s room was for the doctor and the third answer was that
she did have wine over a meal.”

Makhanya said that South Africa
today was a free society, unlike the dangerous apartheid days where the state
deployed death squads. Nowadays, he said, nobody would be arrested for making
an investigation.

The conference’s keynote speech was
delivered by Sheila Coronel, founder of the Philippine Centre for Investigative
Journalism.  

Coronel drew similarities between the
themes reported in South Africa
and in the Philippines.
 Just like South African journalists, Coronel
said, Philippine journalists had exposed wrongdoing in high places and such
exposures had led to dramatic results.

“Like your health minister, our president
also had a drinking problem.” She said the investigation into the cut-price acquisition
of a Mercedes Benz by Tony Yengeni, at the time chief whip in Parliament, reminded
her of their own investigation of the Philippine Congress.

Coronel said that through their
investigations they had found amongst other things that a party representative
from one of the poorest areas of Philippine was driving a $50 000 Hummer which
he did not declare in his asset disclosure and his declared income indicated he
could not afford.

Coronel told delegates that investigative
journalists played a role in unmasking “tightly guarded secrets of the
powerful”. She added that investigative exposures can lead to more profound reforms
in the long term.

Other speakers included Mervyn Rees,
veteran journalist and co-author of the “Muldergate” , Mondli Makhanya the
editor of Sunday Times and Andrew Trench from the Daily Dispatch.

 The conference sessions are being streamed
live on this site, www.journalism.co.za.
 However, German investigative journalist
Günther Wallraff was unable to attend since he was injured at home.