The Media and Society conference at the Sandton Convention Centre on Friday turned into a battleground between the SABC and South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef).
At the centre of the dispute was whether recent reports in the Sunday Times on Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang being a thief and a drunk were of public interest or not.
SABC group chief executive Dali Mpofu said: "Public interest should be guided by our values which underpin dignity and culture.
Press freedom should not be used as a shield to public interest. The press is a machine, it does not have freedom." Freedom belongs to the people, they have a right to be informed truthfully ," said Mpofu. He further accused Mondli Makhanya, Sunday Times editor, of lying about his imminent arrest.
Sanef said it is within their right to expose wrong things. "We have a right to get into people's bedrooms, especially if they are having sex with children and taking pictures of it. We need to expose such people because it is in the public interest," said Sowetan editor Thabo Leshilo.