DA to complain over media group

2011-12-07 22:40

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance will lay an official complaint against Independent Newspapers with the press ombudsman over an ANC centenary celebration feature, it said on Wednesday.

"[On Tuesday] my office received a letter from Independent Newspapers inviting the DA to advertise in a special feature on the ANC’s centenary celebrations," party leader Helen Zille said on Wednesday.

The feature was to run in The Star, Pretoria News, Cape Argus, Daily News, Diamond Fields Advertiser, and Isolezwe on January 13.

"The letter, written on an Independent Newspapers letterhead alongside an ANC logo, is a glowing endorsement of the ANC."

It was ironic that Independent Newspapers would choose to run an advertising feature glorifying the ANC when the same party was attempting to shut down the free press, Zille said.

However, Independent News and Media SA editorial director Moegsien Williams said it was "wrong, misleading and mischievous for anyone to suggest that an advertising feature has, can or will influence our editorial content".

Editorial integrity

Advertising features were handled by the commercial section of Independent Newspapers.

"As a rule, there is a 'Chinese' wall between the commercial and editorial units of our company primarily to protect our editorial integrity."

Decisions regarding news content were taken by members of the editorial staff and ultimately the editors, whose letters of appointment had a clause which spelled out their independence and sole authority in determining editorial content and policy.

"We have and will always defend our editorial integrity against any undue commercial, political or any other interference or influence.

"We value our readers' interests above all else and are sensitive to their diverse views. This is the main reason why we will not promote political parties on our editorial pages," Williams said.

Independent Newspapers' news coverage was based on the principles of its own and the Press Council's code of ethics, which emphasised accuracy, fairness, and objectivity.

"The planned ANC centenary supplement is similar to the many supplements our commercial departments publish regularly to commemorate or mark events or anniversaries of corporates and other organisations.

‘One-sided endorsement’

"As a rule, they are clearly marked as 'advertorial'," Williams said.

Zille said this "one-sided endorsement by a newspaper of a political party to solicit prospective advertisers", as well as the planned supplement itself, appeared to be in violation of section 3.1 of the Press Code.

This section stated that the "press shall not allow commercial, political, personal, or other non-professional considerations to influence or slant reporting".

"Conflicts of interest must be avoided, as well as arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the press’s independence or professionalism," it stated.

Zille said she would lay an official complaint with the press ombudsman in terms of the Press Code, and would impress upon him the need to make a ruling before the special feature on the ANC centenary was due to appear in January.

"It is crucial that a signal is sent out to all media that the one-sided promotion of a political party is not okay.

"It violates the very principles of independence that all media should adhere to. If this is the way that the Independent Group is framing the ANC’s centenary, I shudder to think what the SABC is planning," she said.

  • Andres - 2011-12-07 23:11

    I have to agree with the complainant here. If it is meant to be advertorial content, why would Independent Newspapers send out a notice on a joint letterhead with the ANC's logo; clearly, business-wise, we all understand that if the letterhead sports both logos, it means it's a joint venture. Although we know the press is against the Protection of Information Act, this is a huge blunder on the part of Independent Newspapers. The ANC is a client, not a partner, and it should be expressed as such in correspondence.

      Smanga Zwane - 2011-12-08 06:24

      I wonder if you would agree if the complainant wasn't the da.

      Andres - 2011-12-08 07:57

      Yes I would! Don't put words in my mouth and make hallow assumptions to suit your own political dogma. NO political party, period, should be associated with civil society structures, including the media.

      Bryan - 2011-12-08 08:05

      @Zwane. I dont think it would make a difference who the complainant is. Whats wrong is wrong, plain and simple. Just happened to be the DA who brought it to our attention, can you think of anyone else who would?

      goyougoodthing - 2011-12-08 09:23

      Independent Newspapers are in bed with the ruling party. Other than letters to the Editor they regularly rave about how Great Sutcliffe is, how his girlfriend Julie-may is brilliant and the list goes on.

      vernon.wolf - 2011-12-08 11:11

      Helen you beauty! Independent Newspapers have long forgotten what it is to be a free press agency! I do not support them in any way and nor should you... stop buying into the draadsitters mentality and stop buying their newspapers, hurting them where it matters is the only way to get the message across!

  • Mark - 2011-12-07 23:14

    How much did they pay your media group, Moegsien?

  • Tc - 2011-12-08 07:01

    So called 'Independant Newspapaers' with an ANC logo on its Letterhead!!! That confirms the puppets they are. Puppets of their plundering ANC masters.

      Tc - 2011-12-08 07:11

      Newspapers who ar in the so called 'Indpendant Newspapers' group according to the IOL website are: Cape Argus, Star, Sat.Star, Pretoria News, Cape Times, Mercury, Daily News, Isolezwe, Post, TIOS, Tribune, Sunday Independant. Must we now view them all as ANC-puppets? Voice of their masters? like the SABC.

  • Garth - 2011-12-08 08:16

    It is high time that the anc ignorants realise that they have destroyed their right to use the word `integrity'.

  • Marion - 2011-12-08 09:15

    Not on to put a political party's logo on your letterhead Independent Newspapers. If you put one on you should put all one million (that's what it feels like sometimes!) political parties logos on the same letterhead. Don't believe you can justify this partisan approach to trying to obtain advertisers.

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