Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Papers that break their own Code of Conduct - continuously

Dear Prakash Desai, Avusa Group’s Chief Executive,
          Did you know that the editors on some of your Group’s newspapers like The Times and the Sunday Times don’t seem to be familiar with that well known saying, People in flimsy papers shouldn’t throw stones?
          I’ve just read the editorial in The Times. Under the heading JZ’s breach of ethics returns to bite him. It lambastes President Zuma for not naming members of his cabinet who violated Parliament’s, Executive Ethics Code by not declaring their financial interests in the stipulated time. He had also been an offender.
        Not unlike Zuma your papers consistently flout your own Group’s Code of Conduct.  How can they set themselves up as moral guardians when their own moral are so lax? 
          Like Zuma their breaches of ethics are coming back to bite them right on their smug, holier than thou, you know what. Once again they’ve been caught on my blog with their pants down.
          As the members of the South African Press Council sit idly by while this is going on it is left to me, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman to spotlight these things.
       What’s the point Prakash in your Group declaring that its papers do not accept anything for free when The Times and the Sunday Times go on doing it?
          In the same edition that Zuma was taken to task The Times carried a glowing story by Jackie May about a tented camp at the Madikwe Game Reserve where rates start at R3100 per person sharing per night. It ended with this in italics; May was a guest of the Thakadu River Camp.
          This was nothing but a free advertisement in disguised. There’s no chance of readers getting a critical assessment of these places when the reporter has been enticed there as a guest.
          A few days earlier the Travel & Food section of the Sunday Times carried a report by Paul Ash on the opening of Club Med’s new resort at Sinai in Egypt. It too ended by telling readers that he had been a guest of the main subject of his report.
          Sinai, he wrote, was the site of the original wandering when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt. An 11th Commandment might be; Don’t go into a desert canyon wearing strappy sandals. 
          More appropriately I would say the 11th one should be: Don’t go on free trips when they are contrary to your paper’s Code of Conduct.
          A headline in the Review section of that Sunday Times was just as ironical as the editorial about Zuma. It was above the column written by Mondli Makhanya, the overall big shot editor of your entire Group. It said, Demands for ‘free stuff’ are damaging our future as a nation.
          It had nothing to do with your papers getting freebies but it was extremely apt nevertheless.
        I first exposed how your papers were ignoring your Code of Conduct in a letter to Phylicia Oppelt, the Editor of The Times, which appeared on my blog headed: What Code of Conduct.
          Afterwards Thabo Leshilo, your Group Public Editor who is charged with dealing with complaints commented, It does a good job of keeping us on our toes.
          Well it seems that even on their toes the editors of these two publications are unable to reach the high standards set by your Code of Conduct because even after my first blog on the subject the freebies kept on being accepted. 
          Whoever formulated your Code of Conduct evidently thought freebies could taint the reports that appeared in your papers and that’s why they were banned.
          So why does nobody stop the practice especially when the evidence is so blatantly displayed in print?
          Yours tenaciously,
          Jon, the ever watchful Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.

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