A video series based on the controversial “Tembisa 10” decuplets story has been shortlisted for an International News Media Association (INMA) award.
Independent Media commissioned the series, dubbed Baby Trade – Tracking the Truth, last year as a follow up to its heavily contested story about a South African woman, Gosiame Sithole, who had allegedly given birth to 10 babies. No evidence of these babies was ever put forward.
On its website, INMA describes itself as “the world’s leading provider of global best practices for news media companies looking to grow revenue, audience and brand amid profound market change.” It is headquartered in Dallas, US, with offices in Antwerp, Nairobi, New Delhi and San Salvador.
‘Baby Trade’ shortlisted for INMA award
Last month, INMA announced that it had shortlisted Baby Trade – Tracking the Truth for an award under the “Best Use of Social Media” category.
While the eight-part video series focuses on human trafficking, an overview presented by Independent Media states that it was “born out of the front-page story that made headlines around the world,” – a reference to the Tembisa 10 story.
“The story was at first welcomed for the celebration it should have been but was swiftly thereafter decried as ‘fake News.’ Without doing any investigation to prove otherwise, the South African media immediately castigated Independent Media and Piet Rampedi, editor of Pretoria News who broke the news,” the media group claimed.
However, the government, including the hospitals that Independent Media claimed had been involved in the births, denied the existence of any decuplets.
SANEF slams INMA
In a statement on Wednesday (6 April), the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) said it was appalled at INMA for retaining “a false report about the so-called birth of decuplets in Gauteng as a shortlisted piece of journalism for the upcoming Global Media Awards.”
SANEF said it had written to INMA to express concern about the shortlisting. However, the Association reportedly said its judges were “judging the quality of the social media campaign – not the story itself.”
INMA reportedly added that it is “not in a position to reverse their jury’s decision to shortlist the social media campaign, given the information at their disposal during the judging process in February 2022. The additional context surrounding the story will be weighed in the ongoing process to select winners which will be announced by INMA in June 2022.”
SANEF however said this response was “not good enough” because “it legitimises a campaign borne out of a story that has been proven not only to be ludicrous, but also an embarrassment to South African journalism.”
“Unfortunately, the embarrassment continues as the same newspaper group, a paying member of INMA, continues to publish more stories that seek to purport the legitimacy of the decuplets’ so-called birth. It is important to note that the ten babies are still to be seen and no proof has ever been provided that they do in fact exist,” SANEF added.
It called on the Association to remove the shortlisting immediately, noting that Independent Media’s internal ombudsman had flagged the decuplets story as having “failed to pass the basic principles of journalism.”
UPDATE: INMA has since removed the shortlisting, according to a news report by News24 on Thursday (7 April).