The Sunday Times has admitted to breaking the press code by publishing sponsored content without alerting readers, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.
On February 21, 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 January 28, DA spokeswoman Refiloe Nt’sekhe said.
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 currently facing the province, she said.
“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,” Nt’sekhe said.
The Sunday Times had since admitted that it “should have alerted [their] readers to the fact that the content was sponsored by an outside party” and had granted the DA an opportunity for a right of reply.
The DA believed 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 stated 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 stated: “The media shall indicate clearly when an outside organisation has contributed to the cost of news gathering”.
Furthermore, the paper also possibly violated clause 2.4 which stated that: “Editorial material shall be kept clearly distinct from advertising and sponsored content” and clause 3.3 which stated that: “The press shall indicate clearly when an outside organisation has contributed to the cost of news gathering”.
“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,” Nt’sekhe said.
– African News Agency (ANA)