Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sowetan: Irresponsible Inaccurate Journalism

SHOOT: On page 4 of the May 12 SOWETAN tabloid an article trumpets MALEMA CASE THROWN OUT, and further, highlighted in red and underlined: HEARING CLEARS YOUTH LEADER. The thumbnail of the president [Zuma] is a picture in the top left corner, the president looking frustrated with the subtitle 'Weakened', imposed over a much larger photo of a big-smiling Malema, his picture captioned as 'Laughing Matter:.. cleared of all charges.'

Interesting.  By comparison the most visited story on right now [May 12/13] describes the verdict and the result of the disciplinary action in this headline: Malema must say sorry to SA. I find the contrast in the impressions created between these two headlines disturbing.  My impression is that they are different stories from different days, except they are not.  The only difference is the news source, and by that I mean specifically, the publications. 

On for example you will read the following [dated 11 May] regarding the Malema case.  Here they are not even giving their own analysis, they are quoting from the actual statement provided to the media.

"The national disciplinary committee ruled ... Julius Malema shall make a public apology to the president of the ANC, the ANC and the public in general," the party said in a statement.

The Sowetan on 12 May does not provide the above text anywhere and does not even hint at the existence of it, but in fact attempts to malign the facts to suit a completely different manufactured story.

What is interesting is that the Sowetan article claims the case was thrown out - the headline in the newspaper says as much: Malema case thrown out. Really?  And he was cleared of all charges?  Really?  Are there no 'buts' in these claims?  There is not a single mention of a plea bargain or an apology, and the article covers the bulk of page 4, with lots of pulp given over to whining about the details and inconsistencies of the 'lesser charge that won't stick'.

Sowetan's mindset is made explicit in the opening paragraph, opining that Malema's victory 'could make President Jacob Zuma appear weaker.' Well their photo arrangement certainly follows through with this suggestion.  But it is not accurate, it's not nearly a fair reflection of reality, and in fact this is a deliberate distortion of the truth by the Sowetan tabloid. Why do they keep using the ambiguous term 'cleared' for Malema.  The word has no legal import, but it creates an impression - which is a misrepresentation. In this case, in this vital matter, that misrepresentation is reprehensible.

Based on their text and images in the May 12 Sowetan the Sowetan are clearly partisan to Malema. They would be, because he is a tremendous source of revenue for them. He is a newspaper seller and hits on a website. If Sowetan serves Malema for profits as it appears, they should be reported to the Press Ombudsman.

Furthermore, on page 12 of the same Sowetan newspaper, is what appears to be an editorial analysis of the Malema hearing titled: Sowetan Says: Juju's luck is holding.  If you had full disclosure of the contents of the hearing and knew about the apology that had been ordered, do you really think you'd call the outcome lucky?  On the contrary, if you'd inferred that he'd escaped serious charges with no consequences you could further imply that he was lucky, and this is what Sowetan does.  Infer, imply - it's not responsible news reporting and if a newspaper is in the corner, if it has the back of the likes of Malema - who has been ordered by the government to apologise to the nation, and this newspaper pretends that he hasn't been - this is very serious indeed.  It means Sowetan - the publication - is also undermining the interests of the public.

Sowetan describe Malema's being cleared of the serious charges against him as 'amusing'.    They also describe the 'lesser' charge [referring to the Mbeki slur as 'unfair'].  Most ridiculous of all is this assertion: 'We will not be surprised if Malema apologises to Zuma...'  Wow, such wisdom.

The manipulation of the facts is interesting.  See, we know that Malema had been ordered to apologise and the statement of apology had already been provided to the press.  This statement [if you follow the link to the left of this sentence] is published by TimesLive which is a sibling publication of the Sowetan, and both actually occupy the same building in Biermann Street Rosebank.  The statement [with the full text of the apology] is dated 11 May, yet Sowetan make no reference to:

- a plea bargain
- a R10 000 fine
- Remedial Action [Anger Management]
- Apology*

*Quote: A. APOLOGY: Comrade Julius Malema shall make a public apology to the President of the ANC, the ANC and the public in general. The text of the apology is contained in Annexure A, and submitted as part of this Press statement on behalf of cde Malema.

So it is interesting that Sowetan Editorial, in refraining from publishing a fair account, and in effect purposely reporting a distortion of the facts, actually go even further and pretend to have insight into the future, suggesting to their readers that they 'expect' Malema, sometime in the future, is likely to apologise to Zuma. Really?  All this seems to me to present a deplorable conflict of interest in terms of the public's interest and whatever the interests of the Sowetan are in maintaining their pretenses.  One must also question whether the motives involved are similar to Malema's - populism and racism and thus racist populism.

  • Sowetan can however be credited for at least publishing this rebuttal [probably in the 'Letters' section], written by Madikwe's sponsors in their own defence: Go see Australia yoursel
  More: Judge Zulman's Ruling on the Appeal Hearing - Pearl Luthuli vs Sowetan [March 9, 2010]
clipped from

Malema must say sorry to SA

Johannesburg - Outspoken ANC youth leader Julius Malema made a public apology and must pay a fine over charges of bringing the party into disrepute, the ANC said on Tuesday.
Malema had defied calls from President Jacob Zuma to cease making inflammatory and racially tinged comments.
"The national disciplinary committee ruled ... Julius Malema shall make a public apology to the president of the ANC, the ANC and the public in general," the party said in a statement.
clipped from
Hearing clears youth leader
ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema has been cleared on three major charges by the organisation’s disciplinary committee, after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
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