The Right2Know Campaign is deeply concerned at what appears to be an attack on editorial independence by management at Media24 targeting journalists. Journalist Sipho Hlongwane is facing disciplinary action next Wednesday for his part in publishing the controversial blog “Could it be Time to Deny White Men the Franchise?” on the Media24-owned Huffington Post SA website.
In our enquires it has emerged that Hlongwane applied his editorial discretion when deciding to publish the opinion piece. Media24’s action contributes to a dangerous trend where media houses are increasingly being turned into uncritical mouthpieces of the corporate media monopolies that own them.
Hlongwane disciplinary hearing is thus of great public interest and the Right2Know has written to Media24 demanding the hearing be open to the public.
Media24 Management fails to the strengthen Editorial Policies
While it is clear that there were, and remain, weaknesses in the Media 24 editorial quality control systems, these are a result of inadequate policy, procedures, and resources put in place by Media 24 management. Management has failed to act despite former Editor-In-Chief Verashni Pillay and Hlongwane both proposing measures to strengthen quality control systems.
Rather than undertaking the promised review of Editorial Policies, we are concerned that the Media24 management are trying to purge a journalist whose news agenda does not conform to their commercial interests.
Commercial Threat to Media Freedom
Media24 is owned by NASPERS, Africa’s largest publisher, printer, and distributor of magazines and related products, as well its largest newspaper publisher. In South Africa they have a virtual monopoly of satellite television and control 40% of all print distribution. NASPERS use their position of market dominance to undermine competition and frustrate the media diversity our democracy so urgently requires.
In disciplining Hlongwane the Media24 management are responding to commercial and political pressure to suppress critical voices in the SA media.
Moreover, journalists at Huffington Post have been instructed to generate huge amounts of content (30 unique posts a day) with very limited resources. Media24’s pursuit of cost cutting measures for increased profit places journalists and editors under immense pressure and further weakens editorial quality and undermines the credibility of SA’s media.
The impact of the commercialisation of media – and the concentration of ownership – poses a major threat to media freedom in South Africa. Commercialisation is undermining the capacity of journalists to meet their professional and ethical commitments to serving the public and gives advertisers (through media managers) undue influence in editorial decisions.
Right2Know Campaign reiterates our call for a media transformation that ensures our media landscape is more inclusive and fosters more platforms for more voices, especially the marginalised ones. We need to put an end to predatory media practices of media giants such as NASPERS, which have consistently undermined media diversity and plurality in our democracy.
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- R2K Communication Rights Organiser: Biko Mutsaurwa, 0782777798