Sunday Times admits breaking the press code by publishing sponsored content without alerting readers
On 21 February, the DA lodged a complaint with the Press Council of South Africa against the Sunday Times following a full page spread featured in the paper on 28 January 2018.
The “Special Feature” spread contained baseless allegations against the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town and the DA regarding Day Zero and the water crisis the province is currently facing.
Despite the highly critical contents of the piece, neither the DA, the Western Cape Government or the City of Cape Town was afforded an opportunity to respond to these allegations.
It later came to the DA’s attention that the content was in fact paid for by the Department of Water and Sanitation and by extension the former Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. The Sunday Times failed to alert its readership of this crucial fact.
The Sunday Times has since admitted that it “should have alerted [their] readers to the fact that the content was sponsored by an outside party” and has granted the DA an opportunity for a right of reply.
The DA is of the view that by publishing a feature without input from all the relevant parties, the Sunday Times possibly violated Clause 2.2 of the Press Code which states that: “News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions, or summarisation” as well as Clause 2.3 which states: “The media shall indicate clearly when an outside organisation has contributed to the cost of newsgathering”.
Furthermore, the paper also possibly violated Clause 2.4 which states that: “Editorial material shall be kept clearly distinct from advertising and sponsored content” and Clause 3.3 which states that: “The press shall indicate clearly when an outside organisation has contributed to the cost of newsgathering”.
The DA has always been a proponent of the free media and has encouraged the press to report without fear or favour.
Despite this, the media also has the responsibility to report and inform the public by always maintaining the highest possible ethical standards. It is, therefore, rather unfortunate that the Sunday Times has found themselves in this peculiar position.
Statement issued by Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL, DA National Spokesperson, 11 March 2018