Monday, October 6, 2014


Dear Rob Rose,

         In your column in the Sunday Times you told us that the media is kept on a tight leash in South Africa by the Press Ombudsman Johan Retief who is the main adjudicator for the Press Council.
         Well I’m sorry to have to tell you that’s not true. For a start he only considers complaints, so if a newspaper misbehaves the Ombudsman does nothing unless he gets one.
         The other disturbing aspect is this. In my experience complaints get put into two categories – those from the somebodies and those from nobodies.
         If you are a somebody such as a member of the government, a prominent businessman or a member of the legal profession he is far more likely to find in your favour against an offending newspaper than if you are a nobody like me.
         What happened when I complained that the business section of your paper (Business Times) that you write for continued to use a freelance after he had been exposed as a crook under a Noseweek magazine headline High on the Hogg: How Jim Jones ripped off his website employers and then spun the story?


         Worse still he spun the story in your Business Times to make his former employer Moneyweb look bad (See Press Council’s Brand of Justice – Parts I & II).
         The answer is nothing. My complaint was dismissed by Retief.
         What happened when I complained that the Sunday Times continued to publish clearly dubious get-rich-quick advertisements? Alright I know that the Press Ombudsman conveniently doesn’t deal with advertising complains , but in this case your paper’s internal ombudsman had given an editorial undertaking that something would be done about these.
         I was vindicated completely when people responsible for some of the ads were subsequently exposed by Carte Blanche, the TV investigative channel for defrauding investors out of millions.       
The answer again is nothing. My complaint was dismissed by Retief.
         And when I tried to appeal against his rulings former Judge Ralph Zulman, head of the Council’s Appeals panel, decided my cases did not merit further consideration.
         You mentioned a perfect example of how a somebody gets treated. In winding up the estate of Barry Tannenbaum, who perpetrated the country’s biggest Ponzi scheme, the lawyers and liquidators took more than half of the R100-million collected as their fees and costs. As you know the lawyer for the liquidators complained about the general tone of the Business Times report headed Lawyers gorge on Ponzi cash.
The Ombudsman dismissed most of the complaint but decided that the use of the word gorge had been inappropriate. His absurd explanation, which you reported was that even though the trustees may have been ‘gorging’, it was not for the paper to state this as a fact when the phrase ‘drained money’ should have sufficed.
         Talk about splitting hairs. It appears that he felt he had to give the lawyer something.
         In the column he used to write for Business Times Steve Mulholland accused one of the somebodies the Deputy Director of the Department of Public Enterprise of wrong doing without giving the proof.  After the Director complained to the Ombudsman your paper was ordered to apologise.
         I’m not criticising this decision, but what I am saying is that basically this complaint was no different from my ones which were dismissed. In all the cases what your paper did was obviously wrong.
         In your puff for the Ombudsman you wrote If a publication errs even in one tiny respect the Ombudsman forces it to publish a prominent apology.
         Again this is not true as my complaints alone show and I’m sure there are many other examples.
         Also from what I’ve seen apologies are seldom if ever given the same prominence in papers as the original story.That in itself is immoral. Publications usually do their best to place them where as few people as possible will see them.
          The main part of the Sunday Times had the correction below tucked away on Page 4 whereas the So Many Questions column that it appeared in took up about a quarter of a page on Page 21 the previous week. As this is a regular feature my feeling is that this correction should have been in the column.

         I know this was not something the Ombudsman ordered, but it illustrates how corrections are often handled.
         Your high handed assumption that it’s a common refrain from halfwits and crooks that the press is unaccountable and sensationalist, a third force bent on abusing its self-appointed position as the fourth estate, suggests that it’s perfect.   Well I’m not a crook so there’s only one other category I and anybody else like me who has a beef about the way the press behaves can fit into, in your opinion.
         In the days before blogs and social media the only avenues available to the average person who believed a paper was abusing its position was to write a letter to the editor, complain to the Ombudsman or in extreme cases take costly legal action.  
         Letters however could be easily censored or not even published. And anybody who tried the Ombudsman’s route had to bear in mind that the Press Council’s slogan is: Effective self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media.
         They would think that wouldn’t they? It’s like appointing and paying the judge at your own trial. How they have been allowed to get away with this as long as they have I don’t know.
         If that’s not abusing its self-appointed position as the fourth estate I don’t know what is.
         Now halfwits like me can take to a blog to tell the world about the shenanigans in the newspaper business that papers don’t want anybody to know.
         Like the results of my complaints to the Ombudsman that I have already mentioned.
         Like Johannesburg’s The Citizen that is making money out of cock (literally) and bull advertisements that even its own Editor agrees are not believable (See The Citizen’s Aladdin’s Cave of Unbelievable adverts).
         Like the refusal of the Caxton Group, the owner of this paper; the Print & Digital Media SA, to which most newspaper publishers belong and the South African Editor’s Forum to even acknowledge that this abuse of the press exists, even though I have brought it to their attention (See Caxton’s Bosses duck dubious adverting issue; Print and Digital Media’s appalling hypocrisy and Editors’ questionable ethics).
         Like the Advertising Standards Authority, the adverting equivalent of the Press Council, that refused to take my complaints about the Citizen’s ads that are exploiting the poor and unsophisticated with promises such as penus enlargement and instant wealth (See Ridiculous Adverting Standards Authority).
         Halfwits like me can even extend their blog tentacles across the world to tell everyone who is interested what the dicey members of the fourth estate are up to in Britain.
         Like the National Union of Journalists, that claims to be the largest organisation of its kind in the world with about 38 000 members, that has given up policing its bad eggs. It did take complaints from the public about its members some years ago until they became so numerous it could no longer afford to do this (See National Union of Journalists’ protection racket).
         You can understand why it was that in this environment the 168 year old News of the World that was once the biggest selling English paper anywhere had to close after its phone hacking scandal final burst into the open.
         No doubt it was brought down by other halfwits like me.
         When it comes to halfwits, as Editor of the Business Times it’s hardly the brightest thing to do to promote fiction as fact in your column in a paper that is read by millions.
         Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who tells it like it is and not like some of the papers would have it.

P.S. If only I was a somebody I would have a prima facie case to submit to the Press Ombudsman about all the incorrect statements you have given as fact in this column of yours.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Dear Readers,
          Given a bit of power some people just can’t help abusing it. Such a person is Murray Norton, a former BBC Radio Jersey presenter, who is standing in the October election for the States of Jersey, as the parliament in this Channel Island is called.
          My son Simon Abbott died of a heart attack in Jersey aged 47 having been relentlessly cyber-bullied in the last two years of his life. And there is ample evidence to show what stress does to your heart.
Norton led the charge ably assisted by his photographer friend Ian le Sueur.
          Simon’s crime in the eyes of Norton and his followers was that he unsuccessfully tried to raise money for the trust he established to help women suffering from post natal depression. He did this in memory of his sister Samantha who committed suicide a few months after the birth of her first child.
         Norton had the power of the BBC behind him at the time the cyber-bullying occurred. And after Simon and I complained the Corporation’s highest authority the BBC Trust took the absurd decision that although its top executives had made Norton stop what he was doing, he had not been a cyber-bully (See BBC’s FINAL WHITEWASH JOB).
          It now turns out that Norton’s bullying extends to more than just social media. He is versatile when it comes to this most cowardly of activities.
          Norton says he has now retired from broadcasting after being a presenter for BBC Radio Jersey and Channel 103 FM. He claims credit for having been involved in charity fund raising for more than 30 years.
          On his blog Stuart Syvret, a former Minister of Health, who was forced out of office for trying to expose corruption by the powerful feudal Establishment that controls the Island, had this to say about Norton.
          Murray is a tireless charity fundraiser even to the extent of taking part in the cyber-bullying campaign of a less successful charity fund raiser in the hope that the unfortunate Simon Abbott would put the donated goods he received into Murray’s far more capable hands (See DID CYBER-BULLIES KILL SIMON ABBOTT).
          We understand that Murray took an active part in the campaign even to the extent of tricking the ill Mr Abbott out of hiding so that Murray’s photographer friend Ian Le Sueur could take an illicit picture of him.
          If Murray has ever expressed contrition for his part in this I have yet to see it.          

          Murray was joined in his efforts by some of the usual suspects including the voluptuous and colourful Maureen Morgan, who is a fortune teller and dildo saleswoman (See JERSEY’S SU-MO WITCH MORGAN GETS THE BOOT).
   Unlike the flaky Morgan, Murray is surely a shoe in with the dopey electorate of middle Jersey. With Murray the Establishment’s future will be in safe hands and the ill-informed will continue to enjoy the government they deserve.
          I always thought Norton was part of the Establishment. That explained why he was protected by the BBC and why the Police refused to take any action against him when Simon complained about being cyber-bullied (See JERSEY’S TWO FACED COPS).
          It also told me why the Establishment’s newspaper the Jersey Evening Post failed to report a line about the cyber-bullying libel case Simon brought in Jersey’s Royal Court against Norton, Le Sueur, Morgan and several others (See JERSEY EVENING POST – THE ONE EYED PAPER).
Norton owns two restaurants on the Island, Murray’s and Mash. And it was his fascist, Jackboot treatment of his staff that was recently exposed in the blog of Nick Le Cornu, a member of the Island’s parliament.
          As a lawyer Le Cornu represented some of Norton’s bullied staff at the local Employment Tribunal. They were what Le Cornu described as disgruntled Romanians complaining of poor employment practices and an arbitrary hire and fire culture.
          Apparently Norton had complained that the locals were work-shy and that was evidently why he employed immigrants from Rumania.
          Blaming locals and saying they don’t have the work ethic to work hard, is a way of disguising the fact that employers want a workforce that does not complain about poor treatment, low wages and long and often anti social hours, Le Cornu claimed.

          Here are examples of what it is like to work for a serial bully.
          Eduard Brailescu, a chef, was summarily dismissed in September 2013 after not turning up for a morning shift at Murray’s. He had contacted the manager the previous evening saying that his landlord required him to vacate his room and the new accommodation he had found fell through, obliging him to search again urgently.
          His shift was easily covered between the head chef and another one.
          However this was not good enough for our serial bully. When Norton, who was on holiday in France, heard what had happened he instructed his manager to immediately fire the Romanian and employ another chef who had worked there before.
          To rub it in our power hungry serial bully refused to pay Eduard his month’s wages to the date of his dismissal.

          The Tribunal only awarded Eduard his unpaid wages and holiday pay, but significantly Le Cornu added, At the time of writing this remains unpaid.
          Another case involved a Romanian kitchen porter working at Mash who over slept and missed his morning shift when his mobile alarm failed to go off because the battery was flat. He charged it and rang to apologise only to be told to come in the next morning. He was then sacked and received no wages for hours worked or in lieu of notice. This was settled out of court.
          A Romanian waitress employed on a full time permanent contract at Murray’s also got the bully’s Nazi treatment when she refused to sign a new short term contract that would have terminated at the end of the season. She was given notice and dismissed on the same day as her proposed temporary contract would have ended.
          But as other people have proved in Jersey if you are part of the Establishment you can virtually get away with murder.

          Hopefully when it comes to the election the locals will remember that Norton doesn’t think much of them as a work force and that they will cast their votes accordingly.

P.S. Morgan recently stood unsuccessfully for the Jersey parliament, but with the backing of the Establishment the serial bully will unfortunately probably have better luck. But that’s the ‘Jersey Way’ as they say in this cyber-bullying capital of the world where a brave few are battling to get a semblance of justice from the administration.