702 saga raises concern: iLIVE
An extremely crucial public interest editorial, "702 should take a closer look at what the Press Code says" (June 21), caught my eye.
Yet the editorial slid under the radar of those proponents who are critically advocating for the regulation of the media.
Talk Radio 702 host John Robbie's interview with Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros regarding the story, "Cops pull plug on blue-light task team" on June 19, did not go well with The Times' editor Phylicia Oppelt.
Oppelt's editorial, albeit considerably angry at 702, raises conflict of interest and code of ethics issues by which members of the media should abide. Ethics, according to the editorial, are compromised when journalists dabble as "trainers" for clients on whom they potentially have to report, sometimes adversely, on a daily basis.
This is the interpretation I attached to the editorial.
The public puts its faith in the integrity of the media. It believes that different media houses gather news accurately without fear or favour.
For the media to continue gathering news in an unimpeded manner, the alleged "renting-out" of esteemed journalists like Katy Katopodis and Yusuf Abramjee as "trainers on how to deal with the media or even on how to communicate effectively" to clients such as the SAPS and any government department, should be discouraged if the trust between the community and the media is to be maintained. In this instance, the editorial clearly puts the professional integrity of 702 in the dock.
Sacrosanct to any journalist is the protection of sources and any confidential information in their hands. Once journalists or their employers develop a business relationship, as alleged in the editorial, chances are that whistle-blowers, if media houses do not look at this relationship objectively without looking at the bottom line, will be loath to blow the whistle because they will be scared they might end up being adversely affected.
A risky business relationship, either way, can potentially end up compromising the value of news gathered.
That Abramjee called journalist Graeme Hosken and told him that Petros had complained about the article in dispute and was "very angry", if indeed it is true, is something editors should address in their South African National Editors' Forum.
Journalists bear the burden of ensuring the process of doing their work is guarded and protected at all costs.