“A press council stands for good, responsible and reliable journalism. It promotes an ethical code for journalists and investigates complaints about a breach of this code.
“When abiding by a press council, media professionals declare their dedication to the values of objectivity, plurality and democracy.” (quote from Unesco.org)
Around the democratic world, media have versions of press councils, codes of conduct and press ombuds – men and women who deliberate, when a complaint is received, whether a particular piece was in keeping with the standards of ethical journalism and, if not, what remedial action should be taken.
Independent Media made a considered decision to withdraw from the South African Press Council and Press Ombud and announced instead the adoption of the Independent Media Press Code and the launch of an internal Office of the Group Ombud.
While some painted this as a sign of weakness, this is not true: Independent Media is totally committed to self-regulation, with its editors and journalists subscribing to a press code which instructs us to report news accurately and publish opinions which are based on fact and are honestly motivated. Independent Media, like all media, is also bound by the Constitution and the laws of South Africa, and stands firm against discrimination, racism and hate speech.
Recently Independent Media announced former editor Yogas Nair as the new ombud supported by Zenariah Barends as head of the press council and Brijlal Ramguthee as chair of the appeals panel. I can assure you that much work has been done over recent months to strengthen the office of the Group Ombud and improve internal processes to ensure that the news and views our many titles and online sites publish meets the principles of ethical journalism.
In this we strive for accuracy, impartiality, independence and accountability in our reporting.
Should you feel that we have failed, please register a complaint with the Group Ombud’s office. In resolving it, the Ombud does not act alone: she is supported by an adjudication panel and an appeals panel. It is on this appeals panel that I, with another former editor in our group, Moesien Williams, serve. We recently had a complaint to adjudicate (my first) and the views, as you can read elsewhere on this site, were not all the same.
As we continue our work in the future, we will use the common canons of journalism as our guide, engage vigorously with one another, be transparent with our findings, and admit when we were wrong.
Val Boye – Adjudication Panel member