Sunday, June 3, 2018


Dear Readers,
Prof. George Claassen
          How can this possibly be allowed 24 years after the White apartheid government was replaced by a Black one? Are we back in those much hated apartheid days when South Africa’s Afrikaner rulers felt nothing for the welfare of the Blacks they were oppressing?
          Old habits die hard with Naspers and the Caxton Group it seems if they can get away with it, and do what big business so often does – make money with no regard for the ethics of what they are doing.
          Naspers, a multi national internet and media group offering services in 130 countries, does it through its Media24 newspapers.  And so does Caxton that has 88 titles in its newspaper division.
          They think nothing of continuing to print in various editions advertisements aimed at the poorest members of our society which they themselves agree are not believable.
          The ads, clearly aimed at Blacks, promote such obvious lies as penis enlargements and instant riches all with a 100% success guarantee. The purveyors of this deceit have equally unlikely titles such as Dr Bonga, Queen Apiah, Professor Habib, Chief Juba, King Abuja and a host of others.
          The Professor Habib ad was in Media24’s Daily Sun and this learned gentleman claimed to be the “strongest herbalist, healer from Egypt” who could bring back “lost loved ones”; make your “manhood strong and thick ”and “win lotto” etc.
          While it is unlikely that this no doubt fictitious title could be confused with Professor Adam Habib the Vice-chancellor and Principal of Wits University I think the papers are playing a dangerous game. They could just libel a real person.
          As far as I know it is illegal to call yourself a doctor when you are not one, but that doesn’t bother these newspapers one iota. Making money is all they are thinking about.
Citizen ads

          I began my efforts to stop these ads being printed with Caxton’s Johannesburg based daily The Citizen. Steven Motale the editor at the time conceded that these advertisements were “not believable.” He added that he felt his paper should still carry them with a “caution.”
          But when I said this would be an admission that his paper believed the ads were dubious he replied, “It’s a tough one. I’m going to take it up with the advertising department.”
          That was in 2013. Nothing changed however and the paper, which is publish Monday to Friday and has a daily circulation of 43 480, is still coining it out of these lies in the Herbalists section of the Classifieds.
          I have now turned my spotlight onto Media 24’s Daily Sun as well as its free weekly People’s Post which has 10 editions that are distributed door to door in Cape Town. The Sun that claims to be South Africa’s biggest daily has a circulation of 174 483 while People’s Post brags of a weekly print order of 318 495.
          So between them these two publications spread an awful lot of Herbalists lies week in and week out.

          What do you think happened when I asked Professor George Claassen Media24’s Ombudsman about these dubious ads? “I see that your group is not concerned about some of the ads it is happy to carry just to make money,” I told him in an email.
          He went even further than The Citizen’s editor by saying, “I agree with you, many of these ads are totally misleading and even fraudulent.”
          Claassen should know if anybody should. This former Professor of Journalism at Stellenbosch University has written a book on quackery which was an Afrikaans best seller.
Reggie Moalusi

 Reggie Moalusi Editor-in-Chief of the Daily and Sunday Sun told me, “I don’t believe in herbalists. But I don’t impose my views on our readers. There are people who believe in them.”
It’s a real cop out for Reggie to say he doesn’t impose his views on their readers when as an editor he must surely be making decisions almost daily that affect what the paper publishes on the editorial side.
Apart from heading these two papers he is also now the Secretary General of the South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF), the organisation that gave me the complete brush off when I tried to raise the question of these dubious ads with it some years ago. This was in spite of the fact that it claims to be “committed to promoting and support ethical discourse and conduct in the South African media.”
However he was not a member of its Council then.
          The trouble is that so many newspapers conveniently regard their editorial and advertising sections as if they are completely different entities that have no affect on one another.
          When he was appointed Media24’s ombudsman Prof. Claassen was quoted as saying: “Journalists cannot hold other sections of society, such as politicians, public figures and the private sector to account if they do not apply the same standards of responsibility and accountability to their own profession.”
          Well what’s the point in expecting journalists to do this in the editorial side of newspapers when the ones I have mentioned give a shop window to people who are lying their heads off in these Herbalists advertisements?           
          I have taken examples from the two groups that illustrate the kind of morality that is going on. These make me believe that this kind of advertising could be even more widespread in these media empires and perhaps in other groups, than just in the publications I have mentioned. 
          Prof Claassen put the blame on the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) code for being “very vague on these types of advertising.” He then referred to the old White Man’s law of caveat emptor (buyer beware) which he said “also comes into play in which the user/buyer has a certain responsibility to also make informed judgements on whether to buy a produce or use a service.”
Esmare` Weideman
          Esmare` Weideman Media24’s Chief Executive Officer relied on the same excuses when I posed this question to her: “Why does your group continue to feel the need to make money out of lies that are used to rip off the poorest sections of our community.”
          “George is correct that the ASA rules are vague, and that the user/buyer has to exercise judgment. As you know, we have a disclaimer on all our ‘smalls’ advertising pages.”
          Both she and George ignore the fact that the ASA does not publish newspapers and nor does it have any direct say as to what goes into them. So just because the ASA is not doing its job by taking action to stop these advertising lies, does that mean papers are perfectly justified in continuing to make money out of them.
          Early in 2014 the ASA had an Ad-Alert list of 19 advertisers on its website and nearly half of these were traditional healers with names like Dr Bumba, Dr Rehema and Prof. Wakho. This list is sent to all its members to ensure that those with an adverse ruling, who have not responded, can not advertise again.
          At about the same time the ASA claimed  to have “ruled against such advertisements on numerous occasions, and it is hoped that the appropriate authorities will address this issue as it is no doubt causing harm to the credibility of legitimate healers and practitioners and this industry at large.”
          The ASA, which is controlled and paid for by the advertising industry, has conveniently been structured so that it does not have the powered to order papers as whole to stop taking these suspect ads. It can only deal with complaints about the ads themselves involving its own members and it doesn’t initiate anything without a complaint.
The one time consumer journalist on that paper
          What these two media groups are doing is an indictment of the ASA’s failure to do what it claims is the main reason why it was established – “to ensure its system of self - regulation works in the public interest.”
          As for the disclaimer Esmare` talked about that is a published verification that her group is fully aware that what it is doing is not remotely kosher. By just publishing these ads I believe the papers are giving the services offered a certain stamp of approval in the eyes of the less educated on the basis that they would not expect their paper to lie to them.
          Here’s the one in the Daily Sun with my comments in brackets. It is headed Important Notice to Readers and goes on to tell them in the smallest of print that the paper “has not verified whether any of the services or products advertised are safe to use or will have the desired effect or outcome (Why is the paper promoting them if it is so doubtful about how genuine they are?). Readers will note that some of the promised results in the advertisements are extraordinary and may be impossible to achieve (That’s just glossing over what a lot of people would recognise as lies).  Beware some of the procedures advertised may be dangerous if not executed by a qualified medical practitioner (These ads promote some people as qualified doctors when they are obvious not). Readers are warned that they should carefully consider the advertiser’s credentials (How are the unsophisticated people who are evidently taken in by the mumbo jumbo of these herbalists supposed to do this?).”
          It ends by saying “Daily Sun does not accept any liability whatsoever in respect of any of the services and goods advertised (How can this possibly be right when the paper is promoting what it admits are lies and without its advertisements these shysters would have great difficulty in reaching the people they are out to con. In this case relying on the old buyer beware law is like driving the wrong way on a motorway with a sign on the back of your vehicle that says ‘My lawyer assures me that I cannot be blamed if anyone crashes into me because they have a duty to watch where they are going’).”
          What really should have happened long ago is that the journalists in these media groups should have exposed all these bogus doctors, professors and the like in an effort to stop them continuing to rip off the unsuspecting poor. Instead their papers have shown deplorably double standards by not dealing appropriately with that lying hand that feeds them, while still continuing to reveal the shortcomings of others in our society.
Jon, a Consumer Watchdog of long standing and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman, who does his best to tell as few lies as possible. And if by chance he does tells one he is happy to correct it and not blame it on a reader’s poor eyesight, the Blog Council or some other pathetic reason.
See: citizen's lies

P.S.  I have been campaigning for some time on my blog to get The Citizen to stop taking these ads. But whatever I did I could not get it to cease publishing them. Although the ASA has deplored these ads it is clear that it is not serious about getting papers to stop taking these money spinners. When I tried to lodge complaints about the ads with the ASA I was given a complete run around. I was referred to the Print & Digital Media SA (now defunct) in 2014. Caxton was one of the members. They also claimed they did not have the power to stop this kind of advertising and I was referred back to the ASA. I then tried Terry Moolman, Caxton’s CEO and co-founder. He didn’t reply but his PA emailed me to say my inquiry had been passed to Paul Jenkins, Caxton’s Group Chairman and Chairman of the Social and Ethics Committee. I got no reply from him either and the lies continue to be printed in the Herbalist section of The Citizen. It also blocked me on Twitter as some kind of reprisal for exposing its dubious advertising practice on my blog. I was equally unsuccessful when I tried to get SANEF to take a stand against these ads. It claims to be “founded on high ideals in an industry that around the world is often maligned for its lack of integrity,” yet Mathata Tsedu, its director at the time didn’t bother to reply to my email even though I phoned him to make sure he got it. He is a former editor of City Press, which is a Sunday paper in the Media24 stable. Editors clearly won’t take a stand against newspapers over this for fear of putting their jobs on the line in a relatively small media environment.
But I have no job to lose.

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