Ethics? Journalist Edwin Ntshidi appointed advisor …

On November 15, journalist Edwin Ntshidi reported in Eyewitness News (EWN) that the Freedom Front Plus, ActionSA, UDM, ACDP, IFP and Cope were to meet in Sandton to negotiate coalition agreements in the suspended municipalities.

What Ntshidi, a freelance writer whose voice is well known to listeners in 702 and 947, did not report is that he was on ActionSA’s list of Proportional Representation (PR) candidates in the city. of Johannesburg in local elections.

Ntshidi, who covered the local government elections extensively for EWN, was sworn in as a public relations advisor for ActionSA in the city of Johannesburg on Monday, which appears to be a flagrant violation of the press code of conduct and will likely further heighten public mistrust of the media.

According to a report of News24EWN editor-in-chief Mahlatse Mahlase said Ntshidi served his formal notice on November 7 and the news outlet only recently learned of his political ambitions.

News24 said he contacted Ntshidi for comment at the Johannesburg board meeting on Monday, but after meeting with ActionSA leaders, he declined to say whether his reporting during the election was biased or whether he planned to continue working in as a journalist.

Mahlase said News24 this EWN had strong policies in place to avoid biased reporting.

“We lead a team of journalists who proudly and vigorously defend the highest editorial standards and ethics. EWN has strong editorial policies in place to ensure unbiased reporting, and articles go through a rigorous captioning process that involves more than one person approving the copy.

“It is even more essential that these steps are in place during an election, and we have multiple review meetings to ensure our coverage is fair, balanced and accurate.”

Monday, EWN announced that Mahlase, a former News24 political editor and secretary general of the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef), will leave the media house in 2022 to exercise a role outside the news media and will be replaced by Newzroom Africa political editor Sbu Ngalwa.

Daily Maverick understands that her resignation is unrelated to Ntshidi’s appointment as an adviser and that she made her decision to leave long before Ntshidi’s shock political appointment.

A number of journalists have entered the political arena and many are leaving the industry to work in government communications. Politics and the media are closely linked and although questions about conflict of interest are often asked once a journalist takes up a post in a political party or government, these transitions are usually managed in such a way as to avoid duplication. which undermines public confidence in the media.

Ntshidi and ActionSA’s apparent blatant disregard for ethics, however, seems unprecedented.

The Press code states that the media should “not allow commercial, political, personal or other unprofessional considerations to influence reporting, and avoid conflicts of interest and practices which could lead readers to doubt the independence and professionalism of the media ”and may“ accept no advantage which may influence the coverage ”.

A quick look at Ntshidi’s report for EWN during the elections shows no obvious signs of bias towards ActionSA, but the manifestation of such conflicts of interest is difficult to measure.

For example, as an ActionSA candidate who hopes to earn income with the party in the city of Johannesburg, could Ntshidi have excluded critical reporting on ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba and his stance on undocumented migrants?

a explanation on the Press Code by the press mediator note on the provision aimed at avoiding political conflicts of interest: “Every journalist has the right to hold political opinions and even to support a specific political party. However, they should not allow their political beliefs to bias their reporting. Certainly, it is better not to be a member of any party.

He continues: “Not only do journalists have to take their own positions into account, but they also have to think about the impression that their actions can create. This is why the Code adds that “arrangements or practices which could lead the public to doubt the independence and professionalism of the media” should be avoided.

“Perceptions are realities in the eyes of the beholder. So: even if your conscience is clear, you still have to consider the effect (consequences) of your actions. “

Ntshidi clearly violated these provisions to the detriment of EWN and the media industry as a whole. It is astonishing that ActionSA, which must have been aware of Ntshidi’s conflict of interest, allowed Ntshidi to run as a candidate for the city council when he was in a position that could at least create the perception of a media bias towards the party.

For all the bluster of Mashaba and ActionSA on the performance of an audience “gatvol”With politics, he either tolerated Ntshidi’s conflict of interest or failed to properly vet his candidates, raising questions about the caliber of his members who hold decisive votes in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni. DM

About Mitchel McMillan

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