Jan Jan Joubert’s face must be as red as the flag of the South African Communist Party. Though he doesn’t care much about the Party. He celebrated the SACP’s debut contesting an election in the Free State municipality of Metsimaholo, not because it was the Party’s entry into electoral politics but because history was being made by the SACP contesting against the ANC.

Joubert would rather have wanted his face to be blue but the Blue party kicked his ball-point pen. He joins the likes of Donwald Pressly and Gareth van Onselen who personify embedded journalism in our newsrooms. Needless to say that van Onselen has an axe to grind with the Maimane faction in the DA and so therefore continues to do the bidding for the old, White, liberal guard aka Selfe faction.

Van Onselen, though, is not a journalist by training. The public therefore knows that they should read his columns through the blue ray glasses that he was dishing out before he started writing for the Business Day. The columnist had held a number of senior positions in the blue party and then got onto Business Day’s payroll. 

Pressly and Joubert though were in the blue closet; promoting their party preferences on a unsuspecting public paging through their paper. They did the blue party’s bidding and would attack political opponents, even if it meant twisting the news. Read: fake news. 

Yet with a dreadful dollop of dramatic DA irony, both Joubert and Pressly could be seen bluesing together out of their jobs for the same reason. Both had applied for positions in the Democratic Alliance. Their rationale was fair: we had worked for you, as cadres with blue berets, in the newsroom, now it is time to graduate and enter the political space. The blue party, of course, would have none of that and gave them each what they deserved: a blue Monday.

The irony doesn’t stop there though. A few steps back, in the blues, and we see that it was Karima Brown, who also left Independent but she with green haste, that sent Pressly packing. “Donwald has been found to have violated the company’s editorial code of conduct and code of ethics by participating in the electoral college process of a political party…”, said Brown. But that is not why he was dismissed!

He was dismissed, said Brown, not because he had a preference for blue, but because of: “…his failure to disclose this to the editor of the Business Report.” We won’t get into what colour house the editor writes for but we can well imagine that it was not far from blue.

Blue Joubert’s media statement of dismissal read something similar to that of Pressly: “intentionally and negligently failing to disclose to the editor of the Sunday Times a potential conflict of interest where his participation in a Democratic Alliance recruitment process conflicted directly and indirectly with his subsequent writing of a news report involving the party…”

This is politics. Joubert’s conflict of interest has been emerging from a long time. Not only in writing stories after his failed job application but with the stories that he was hoping to land him a job in the first place. Like Pressly, who would later be dismissed as Cape Town Press Club secretary because his real self emerged, Joubert wrote stories against other parties which would negatively affect their chances especially at election times. Often this was pure fake news.

Pressly was blue-eyed by the Cape Town Press Club after his “astonishing vitriolic attack” on the National Assembly Speaker and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. According to parliamentary spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, Pressly had violated the objectives of the Club which were “to promote the professional, social and other interests of Cape Town’s press, media and communications industries, and thereby to endeavour to enhance, uphold and defend the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, conscience and association, principles secured in the constitution.” Pressly was eventually booted, little wonder the blue party didn’t want to accept his application; then already, they knew the pure Pressly.

Pressly’s failure to uphold these values of professionalism and fundamental rights as espoused by our Constitution indicates the type of media practitioners that continue to dog our media space. His, and by extension Joubert’s conduct, unravels for us, us as the public, how vigilant we must be about the political agendas of those in our newsrooms. 

In the run-up to the local government elections in May 2011, Joubert authored an article in the City Press titled: “Coloured workers face axe”. The article was not about the Correctional Services workers who took their case to the Constitutional Court but about the “almost a million economically active coloured [sic] workers in the Western Cape [who] will lose their jobs and be replaced by black [sic] workers if the government’s proposed ­labour laws are passed.” This was the opening line to his article. It was fake news. Swart gevaar tactics par excellence by a blue party operative.

In an article that he wrote on the inquiry into the fitness of the public protector titled: “ANC uses bulk to drown Public Protector inquiry”, Joubert’s bias against the ANC was palatable. He accused veteran ANC leader, Dr Mathole Motshekga, of being partisan, partial and unjust towards the opposition parties. Motshekga has a doctorate in law.

There are many examples that one could use to illustrate to point out that Joubert was an undercover blue agent. It is hard for the DA to disassociate itself from media operators such as van Onselen, Pressly and Joubert who continue to propagate an agenda that is in their interest; in their interests, as White men. 

Journalists like Donwald Pressly, with their unprofessionalism, and Jan Jan Joubert, with their dishonesty, leave a blot on the reputation of the media in South Africa. They fail the South African public by being dishonest about their intentions as they fail the industry by making more people sceptical about the fourth estate; a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet we cannot deny that that blot, left by Pressly and Joubert, is blatantly blue.

Wesley Seale is a PhD Candidate at Beijing University in China 

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