|Free press or freebie press?|
|Thursday, 27 November 2008 09:10|
THE Namibia Editor’s Forum has expressed concern over journalists succumbing to a windfall of corporate generosity in the form of weekly end of year parties where reporters are showered with unsolicited gifts and khaki envelopes.
The line between corporate generosity and embedded bribery seems to have become very thin, and the Forum this week called the corporate and public sectors to stop paying journalists in any form. |
“The Forum calls on newsmakers in both private and public sector not to pay journalists with money, other gifts or in any other form,” said the Editor’s Forum Chairperson Eberhard Hofmann in a statement released yesterday. A snap survey of the contributions made by the corporate sector showed that journalists were getting free cell phones, cell phone allowances, daily allowances and other gifts from companies while in the line of duty. Questions have been asked about whether these gifts and allowances would make reporters lethargic and eventually biased in their reporting on corporate issues. Giant mobile network service provider MTC spends at least N$300,000 annually in monthly airtime allowances, mobile handsets, accommodation, transport and daily allowances for sponsored events and gifts for journalists.
“MTC typically covers monthly airtime allowances to lead journalists for most media houses, T-shirts and baseball caps related to sponsored activities. That will not be less than N$300,000 if we account for all the items listed,” said MTC General Manager of Corporate Affairs Albertus Aochamub.
Aochamub added that MTC expected reporters to remain balanced in their reporting.
“We expect journalists to remain balanced in reporting and ethical in reporting. Because of the support we render we hope that the journalists can carry their functions out without fear or favour.”
Meanwhile, Cell One said that it supported journalists through ‘press briefings and media statements’. Although it gave journalists free cell phones and T-Shirts at an event hosted in 2007, Cell One said it would not encourage undue favourable coverage of its products.
“We acknowledge the role of the media to be researching and covering issues of public interest in an objective manner and therefore proactively and on enquiry supply information regarding the telecoms industry through press briefings and media statements,” said Cell One spokesperson Rejoice Itembu.
In the banking sector, Bank Windhoek, which hosted a colourful media function for journalists last week, said they supported the work of journalists through a N$35,000 annual contribution to the Media Institute of Southern Africa awards.
“We do support professional journalism through our sponsorship of N$35,000 towards the MISA Media Awards. Through this sponsorship we want to illustrate our support for professional journalism and hopefully the standard of journalism will increase as competing for these awards will drive the increase of standards,” said Bank Windhoek Head Corporate Communication and Social Investment, Riaan van Rooyen. “We do from time to time give promotional items to journalists, but then it is part of an event and not to the media alone. As an example we can mention the Estate Agents Awards. The guests each received a promotional gift at their tables. As the media are also present, we treat them as guests and they will also receive a gift.”
MultiChoice Namibia said it seeks to connect journalists to the continental platform by keeping them abreast with the latest technological advances and world-class entertainment content.
“The greatest contribution that MultiChoice Africa and MultiChoice Namibia have made towards journalism in Namibia has been the introduction of the internationally acclaimed CNN/MultiChoice African Journalist Award of the Year,” said Jacky Tjivikua, a Public Relations Assistant at Think Fudge, a communication consultant for MultiChoice.
The Editors Forum has challenged media organisations to formulate and implement in-house codes of ethics aimed at maintaining the integrity of the profession. The norm in most newsrooms is that reporters declare any gifts they get from newsmakers to their editors.