Sunday Independent, 1 June 2008

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The Media Monitoring Project (MMP) and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa have complained to Joe Thloloe, the press ombudsman, and the Human Rights Commission about the Daily Sun's coverage of "non-nationals". The MMP said the Daily Sun's continued use of the term "aliens" to refer to non-nationals was inappropriate and discriminatory. It also said that it believed the newspaper's reporting had the effect of supporting the recent violence by perpetuating stereotypes of foreign people. "Such reporting also threatens the freedom of all media in South Africa, at a time when media freedom has already suffered various challenges," said the MMP. The complaint was 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 use of "alien" logos and headlines, such as "Alien terror" and "War on aliens"; the biased and limited representation of the government and government agencies; the failure of the Daily Sun clearly to condemn the violence until most of it had been contained; and 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, said the MMP, the Daily Sun had a large market in urban areas in those places where the xenophobic violence had taken place. It was clear, the MMP argued, that the Daily Sun's coverage of non-nationals was not in line with its responsibility to present fair, balanced, accurate and non-discriminatory reporting. The Daily Sun had therefore contravened several fundamental clauses of the South African Press Code, the MMP claimed. The MPP suggested that the Daily Sun apologise to all its readers, and write 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 affected by the violence, among other suggestions. Deon du Plessis, the publisher of the Daily Sun, said yesterday that he had not been officially informed by the ombudsman or the Human Rights Commission that a complaint had been made against his newspaper. "Presumably, the ombudsman will let me know in due course - and I will deal with the complaint. There's not much more I can say except that 'South Africa first' is our motto at the newspaper. We are there for the South African working class."