Monday, February 4, 2013

Press Council's odd judgments & Steve Mulholland

Dear Steve Mulholland,
         Sorry to see that my Big Brother the South African Press Council has given you a right old bashing about what you wrote in your Sunday Times column, This is the business.
         As you know your paper reported that the Deputy Press Ombudsman Dr Johan Retief ruled that your Johannesburg based paper had to apologise for what you wrote about the Director General of the Department of Public Enterprise Tshediso Matona.
         Retief slammed your column as misleading, unreasonable, negligent, unjustifiable and unfair text. Gosh that’s telling you.
         As a former newspaper top dog it must have come as shock to be told off in such a fashion. But then you used pretty strong language in your column so you shouldn’t have been surprised if it boomeranged back when you got your facts completely wrong.
         You described our South African Government as a vast criminal enterprise conducted by a mafia run, in turn, by dons and their consiglieri.

Faceless Council
        Nothing wrong with that I would say. Everybody knows that’s too true for comfort.
         It seems the mistake you made was accusing Matona of corruption and other wrong doings which you did not substantiate.
         I thought the Press Council had gone into hibernation after there was Government talk a little while back of stopping the Media being policed by itself, something which has been long overdue.
         Nothing came of that, but judging by your case the Council is making a point of giving high profile Government complainants the very best treatment.
         It seems you were unlucky because in my limited experience the Press Council only takes a stand if the complainant is somebody it can’t ignore. You know some sort of big shot or other especially somebody in a Government that is breathing down its neck.
         In my case being an ex-Sunday Times investigative journo and currently the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman was not enough of a status symbol to warrant serious consideration of my complaints, which were dismissed without even an appeal being allowed.

Faceless Council
         In fact being the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman probably disqualified any of my complaints from the start. I’m sure the Press Council hasn’t taken kindly to this upstart trying to usurp its extremely important role of keeping newspapers in line.
         In the Press Council’s eyes it was perfectly in order for a journalist, who had been exposed in Noseweek as a crook, to go on being employed by the Business section of the Sunday Times (see Press Council’s Brand of Justice – Parts I & II -22/2/2011; Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman in Disappearing Mystery 8/3/2011) that you now write for.
         And it was also in order as far as the Press Council was concerned for the paper to rat on an undertaking to do something about get-rich-quick advertisements that the paper was carrying.

Subsequently some of the advertisers had their crooked ways exposed on Carte Blanche and in Noseweek (see Noseweek exposes Dearjon Letter ), but not before they had made millions with the help of those Sunday Times ads that I tried, for more than two years, to stop.
The Press Council’s website lists 14 members of the Council with pictures of only six of them. The rest are faceless including Mondli Makhanya the former Editor in Chief of the Sunday Times whose picture appears every week beside the column he writes in that paper.
Faceless Council
So what are most of them so bashful about? Are they scared of getting a brick through their window or something?
I also see that Joe Thloloe, who was the Ombudsman from 2007 was given an even fancier title when he became the Director in the Press Council in January this year and Johan Retief, who, as his deputy, seems to have been dealing with most of the case work is now the Ombudsman.
Steve it’s just as well there is no Blog Council otherwise I could be defending myself there every week. But with the present ANC Government who knows there could be a statutory, Complaints Council for Blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
I hope this one bad experience won’t put you off knocking everything that is bad about our Government. Let’s face it that could be the longest column ever written.
Shy Jon
Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman

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