Article on forum flawed

2011-07-16 09:39

The Progressive Business Forum’s partnership with business is about promoting ­dialogue and opportunity.

Bona fide investigative ­journalism undoubtedly has its role and function in ­mainstream journalism, ­provided that those engaged in putting together a story on an objective matter of public interest themselves act ­responsibly and ethically in establishing and presenting the relevant facts.

The article “ANC’s dodgy partners” appearing in City Press on July 3, does not do credit to investigative ­journalism.

In a clear attempt to present the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum in a negative light, it misrepresents it through careless disregard of the facts.

The article suggests that the forum knowingly and willingly “flew suspected fraudsters to Mauritius to woo investors”, while in truth it does not ­“select” businesses to join ­delegations.

Businesses, as a matter of personal choice and on the ­basis of their own assessed potential benefit, respond to invitations addressed to all participants to join such ­delegations, which they pay for themselves.

Furthermore, the article paints a picture of a forum “peppered with controversial figures”, while pointing to three companies (out of literally thousands) – one of which isn’t even a forum participant – who are under investigation for alleged wrongdoing.

Conveniently ignored is the “innocent until proven guilty principle”, a principle, were it not for mala fide journalism, City Press would otherwise defend to the hilt.

The summary of the forum’s extensive global activities, while not complete, is largely factual, except that it distorts the nature of ambassadorial involvement in forum international visits.

The forum is mindful of the non-partisan and non-party political role diplomats are ­expected to play – representing as they do, South Africans of all political persuasions, which we respect at all times.

Accordingly, while invited as guests to events, they do not form part of forum delegations.

In alleging that criticism of the forum has been “re-ignited”, the journalist approaches and dishes up as criticism comments by Neren Rau, who clearly has very little ­knowledge of what the ­forum is about, together with ­predictable comments by ­Judith February, who has ­­­always had issues with party- political funding.

Coincidentally, neither of them attempted to engage the ­forum on its functioning, its ­purpose or objectives.

To ­describe their comments as ­“re-igniting” anything is ­indeed wishful thinking.

The essence of the forum is reflected in all its publications and is a matter of public record.

Its purpose is to facilitate ­effective communication ­between the ANC government and all sectors and sizes of businesses, and to create ­ongoing ­dialogue between the ANC and the business ­community.

It provides participants with an effective platform to get a clear understanding of government policy as it affects them and, as importantly, an opportunity for them to frankly ­express their views and to ­explain the ­effect of government policy on them.

The forum has since its ­inception in 2006 always been about “bringing people together”, which it remains committed to, makes no apology for and will continue to do.

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