The truth and nothing but the truth: a re-affirmation and re-evaluation of undercover journalism practices

Ylva Rodny-Gumede, Colin Chasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The role of journalism in contemporary society is highly debated and highly contested all over the world, even more so in the context of young democracies. We note that in societies where journalism faces constant threats of tighter government control and where even the most innocuous piece of reporting might be criticised, undercover journalism treads a particularly thin but necessary line between the institutionally censored and the ethical-legal. Where journalists are subjected to rebukes, harassment, and worse, by government and public officials, we argue that we need not only re-affirm the role of journalism but even more so investigative journalism, and undercover journalism in particular. As such, we make a call for, as well as investigate the possibility for a reaffirmation of undercover journalism as a practice that describes an essential role that journalism can and should play in society. Taking South Africa as a case study, we investigate the view that at least some journalists, in various ways, do acknowledge that deception and ‘trickery’ are often crucial to uncovering hidden truths as well as new meanings that advance the cause of deepening democracy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-128
Number of pages22
JournalAfrican Journalism Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • South Africa
  • ethics
  • investigative journalism
  • post-colony
  • tricksters
  • undercover journalism
  • young democracies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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