Leading undercover reporters say the pursuit of investigative journalism sometimes requires unconventional methods to get to the bottom of the story, writes Andile Makholwa.

 

Internationally acclaimed German undercover journalist Günter Wallraff has not only hidden his identity as a journalist, but has also assumed roles ranging from being a bogus military officer to being an ordinary factory worker to expose social ills and human rights abuses.
On one occasion, Wallraff offered himself as a political prisoner in Greece and effectively became a human rights activist.
Sharing his experiences from four decades of work, Wallraff told the Power Reporting Workshop in Johannesburg this week that many people have said that his techniques were necessary in the stories he has done.
He said that although he has been prosecuted numerous times for the methods he employs for his undercover investigations, he remains an ethical journalist.
“I think that the techniques that I have used are acceptable,” said Wallraff, adding that he has never pursued stories on individual private affairs because he considers them as not in the public interest.
Wallraff who was trained as an accountant has also written world best-selling books in the non-fiction category.
He says undercover investigative journalism is not only expensive but also very dangerous. 
He says in his work he has often been spied on by opponents looking for evidence of wrongoind on his part. “I still have very powerful enemies who have the media in their pockets who have tried for a very long time to represent the things that I do as immoral.”
Another award-winning undercover reporter, Anas Aremeyaw Anas from Ghana, says extreme social ills require extreme remedies.
Through his numerous fictitious identities, Anas has uncovered human trafficking activities and sexual exploitation of minors in Ghana.
“I believe that extreme remedies are the most appropriate remedies to extreme diseases. If I have to treat a disease I would go for the extreme remedy,” he told the conference.
He says although his job has exposed him to severe criticism, he always gets vindicated when he has exposed wrongdoing through his hidden cameras. “I do not have any regret at all for any of the stories I have done. I think that they were all necessary.”