Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Apologise to Nzimande", the Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators to the Rapport Newspaper
12 April 2016

The South African Communist Party (SACP) welcomes the ruling by the Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators directing the Rapport newspaper to apologise to the Minister of Higher Education and Training (HET), our General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande and other persons for creating wrong impressions the newspaper published about them, adversely affecting their reputations. The SACP condemns in the strongest terms possible all fabrications of lies pushed and carried by newspapers such as the Rapport against the Party, its leaders and members in any of their capacities or any South African for that matter.

On 31 March the Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators found that Naspers' Media24 title the Rapport newspaper created the unfair impression that the HET Minister Dr Blade Nzimande was in some way conflicted and that the newspaper adversely affected his reputation as well as that of the other persons impacted negatively by the story including Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas).

The Rapport newspaper published the lies to create the impression that the Minister (and also the SACP - i.e. in other stories it has published) were reaping money from Setas. The newspaper committed the violation of the Press Code in the story it first published 8 November 2015 under the headline: "Seta-miljoene is na Blade se trust - Verwaarloosde hoenders is ál teken van lewe" (Seta millions went to Blade's trust - Neglected chickens the only sign of life). The story was also carried by Naspers' Media24 online news publication News24 under the headline: "Nzimande's trust reaps R11m in funding from education organization". The story propagated the lies as captured in the headlines, despite the wealth of correct information it has been supplied and had in its possession. Nzimande dismissed the lies with contempt and condemned in the strongest terms possible the Rapport's conduct.

In their finding, the Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators state in no uncertain terms, that:

"The problem we [The Press Ombudsman and the Panel of Adjudicators] have with the headline is not the statement that the trust was Nzimande's [which is a lie] (because he founded it and still was its patron), but rather that it enhanced the impression of a conflict of interest.

"We [The Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators] have little doubt that this has unnecessarily and unfairly done damage to Nzimande's reputation.

"Section 4.7 of the Press Code is relevant in this regard. It reads:

"The press shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving…reputation. The dignity or reputation of an individual should be overridden only by a legitimate public interest and in the following circumstances:

4.7.1 The facts reported are true or substantially true; or
4.7.2 The article amounts to fair comment based on facts that are adequately referred to and that are true or substantially true; or
4.7.3 The report amounts to a fair and accurate report of court proceedings, Parliamentary proceedings or the proceedings of any quasi-judicial tribunal or forum; or
4.7.4 It was reasonable for the article to be published because it was prepared in accordance with acceptable principles of journalistic conduct and in the public interest."

"None of these provisions was applicable in this case", said the Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators about the violation committed by Naspers' Media24 publications the Rapport newspaper and its accomplice News24. In their findings - "Minister of Higher Education and Training et al vs. Rapport" - the Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators conclude that:

"The headline, together with some elements of the article as discussed above [i.e. in their findings], created the unfair impression that Nzimande was in some way conflicted, adversely affecting his reputation, as well as those of Damcom and the two Setas". The Press Ombudsman and the Panel of Adjudicators concludes that: "This is in breach of the following sections of the Press Code: 1.1: "The press shall take care to report news…fairly"; and 4.7: "The press shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving…reputation."

The Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators categorised the breach as serious.

The Rapport newspaper was ordered to apologise to Dr Nzimande and the other persons whose reputation it adversely affected by its breach of the principles of ethical news reporting prescribed in the Press Code. The Press Ombudsman and Panel of Adjudicators directed that the headline of the apology:  "should reflect the content of the text. A heading such as Matter of Fact, or something similar, is not acceptable. If the offending article appeared on Rapport's website, the apology should appear there as well."

Naspers through its Media24 is engaged in a wider political agenda to tarnish the reputation of the SACP and its leaders

The Rapport story was not an accident but part of a wider strategy.

Naspers' Media24, through several of its titles and online news outlet News24 has been pushing a negatively charged, politically motivated coverage agenda to tarnish the reputation of SACP General Secretary Comrade Blade Nzimande and other senior leaders of the Party. This Media24 news coverage agenda emerged in the aftermath of the SACP initiated campaign to achieve transformation of the media. The campaign seeks to achieve de-monopolisation. It has as its main, but not exclusive, focus on the monopoly or dominance Naspers has established among others through its Media24 oligopoly and pay TV monopoly Multichoice. The other objects of the campaign are to achieve diversity of ownership and perspective, robustly independent accountability and decent work for all media workers.  

The SACP has strongly come out and campaigned against the problematic relationship established between Naspers' Multichoice and the SABC. The relationship has effectively given Multichoice enormous influence or control over the SABC, our public broadcaster. In what amounts to collusion, the SABC's rights for example to have the words "twenty four" or numbers "24" in the name of its 24-hour news channel were handed over to Naspers' Multichoice in a wider package that works well for Multichoice's capital accumulation interests compared to the SABC. The handing over of the heritage of SABC archives to Multichoice and control by Multichoice over how they must be used as opposed to independent public programming by the SABC are part of the problematic relationship.

It is among others because of the wider manoeuvres of corporate capture in the communications industry including the monopoly interests of Naspers' Multichoice that the analogue to digital television broadcast migration process has been delayed. In addition, the monopoly is almost completely left untouched instead of using the process to de-monopolise the industry. As a result, new entrants will find it prohibitive to gain access to broadcasting and content protection.

The SACP has been fighting against all of these and other harmful structural and behavioural agendas. The SACP will not be deterred by Naspers' shenanigans. The Party will continue fighting, and intensifying the struggle to achieve media transformation. This includes taking Naspers' unethical news reporting head on!!

Issued by the SACP

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