Media Monitoring Project submits complaint about Daily Sun reporting on xenophobia

Posted: 29 May 2008 | News - Media Release | Categories: Race, Xenophobia and Ethnicity, Media Freedom and Performance

After much speculation about the media’s influence on the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence, Daily Sun is now subject of an official complaint about their coverage of non-nationals. The Media Monitoring Project (MMP) and its partner Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) submitted a complaint with Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHCR) today.

In this complaint, MMP submits that Daily Sun‘s continued use of the term “aliens” to refer to non national’s is inappropriate and discriminatory. Furthermore, MMP believes that its reporting has had the effect of supporting the recent violence by perpetuating stereotypes of foreign peoples. Such reporting also threatens the freedom of all media in South Africa, at a time when media freedom has already suffered various challenges.

The complaint is based on:

  • The continued and unjustifiable usage of negative and discriminatory stereotypes being perpetuated in the Daily Sun’s reporting of non nationals;
  • The repetitive usage of “alien” logo’s and headlines, such as “Alien terror” and “War on aliens”;
  • The biased and limited representation of government and government agencies;
  • The failure of the Daily Sun to clearly condemn the violence until most of it had been contained;
  • The failure of the Daily Sun to offer any non-violent alternatives, or additional information to help prevent violence and to condone mob justice.

In addition, the Daily Sun’s has a large market in urban areas with a demography that is closely aligned with that of the areas where the violence has taken place.

Because of these above-mentioned reasons, MMP submits that the coverage of non-nationals by the Daily Sun during this period is not inline with its responsibility to fair, balanced, accurate and non discriminatory reporting, contravening several fundamental clauses of the South African Press Code:

Because Daily Sun is a newspaper that is widely read within the communities that suffered from the xenophobic violence, MMP believes it is of vital importance that Daily Sun changes this trend in its coverage.

The complaint therefore recommends the following actions to be taken by Daily Sun:

  • An apology to all its readers, and a front page apology to all non nationals in South Africa as a first step to moving beyond discrimination and helping to restore the dignity of those impacted by the violence;
  • The adoption of an editorial position of condemning violence and actively seek out stories which highlight finding alternative means to resolving tensions and disputes;
  • The adoption of an ethical code which it publicises and invites participation from its readers in developing. Such a code would need to include specific clauses aimed at preventing similar stereotypical reporting in the in the future;
  • CoRMSA partners to provide in-depth information and training on reporting on non-nationals and the issues that affect them, so as to encourage better understanding and discourage xenophobia and stereotypes.

More information on the procedure of the complaint can be found on the Press Council’s website: http://www.presscouncil.org.za/pages/south-african-press-code/complaints-procedures.php

See the full complaint.

For more information on the complaint or about the Media Monitoring Project, contact William Bird; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or +27 (0) 11 788 1278 or +27 (0) 82 887 1370 Sandra Roberts, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or +27 (0) 11 788 1278 or +27 (0) 84 9000 344