Gatesgate: Naspers/News24 sudden flipflop on vaccine testing claims

READERS may be aware of false claims made by Naspers media group, News24 stating incorrectly that philanthropist Bill Gates would be testing a vaccine against Covid-19 on Africans. The story turned out to be fake news gleaned from twitter and has resulted in a series of embarrassing retractions and apologies by the media group.

A column by ‘public editor’ George Claasen stands alongside news editor Adriaan Basson’s open acknowledgement: “There is a massive difference between testing kits to help the government determine how many citizens are Covid-19 positive, and testing new vaccines on Africans. This should have been picked up and corrected in the editing process.”

“We messed up and for that we apologised to you, our readers, and to the Gates Foundation” says Basson.

Claasen’s narrative on the other hand, is exceedingly bizarre considering his own admission: “When I was a young cub reporter, ethical accountability by the media was a rare phenomenon. Press codes mostly did not exist and a watchdog such as the Organisation of Newsombudsmen and Standards Editors (ONO), the international body today guarding over journalism standards, did not exist and was only established in the 1980s”.

One should note here that any comparison with the activities of other media houses during the struggle period referred to by Claasen would quickly assess that neither Grassroots nor South Press for that matter, had similar lapses of judgement. Whether the same can be said of the Weekly Mail and its treatment of Winnie Mandela is another story.

Although other media players acted recklessly under various media restrictions and were perhaps, victims of embedded journalism, the old Argus Group showed more backbone than Naspers did in allowing open criticism of the regime. Criticism notably missing from papers such as Die Burger during the same period.

Both Basson and Claasen should therefore be reminded that they speak on behalf of a discredited news organisation that continues to lie about its role during apartheid, was found guilty of gross violations of human rights by the commission of inquiry into apartheid, and today stands accused of waging a campaign against the TRC and also of going so far as to corruptly influence a 2010 decision by our labour legal system, in order to avoid culpability.

The retraction this week follows the passing of Conrad Sidego, ‘the only person to have experienced discrimination’ at Naspers during apartheid, according to the company, a company which itself is a marvel of reinvention.

This follows several well-publicised scandals involving former senior Media24 journalists accused of sexually abusing boys while they held senior positions at the company,

The public retractions by News24 editors, welcome are they may be in some quarters, are thus one of the rare moments when the Naspers corporation has found pause to consider the deleterious effects of its lack of journalistic integrity.

Surely time to demand why no retraction of the many previous ‘errors of fact’ introduced by the apartheid lie factory?

Why no public acknowledgements of complicity in the dirty tricks operation waged against anti-apartheid newsrooms and following similar revelations made by Paul Erasmus during the Timol and Aggett inquests?

Could it be that in all these cases, none of the victims turned out to be billionaires?

Bill Gates’ Microsoft Government — One Happy World of Windows?

THE image of Bill Gates and his wife Melinda sitting in a cramped shack somewhere in Cape Town, sheepishly listening to the “plight of the poor” on the way to a “Microsoft Government” conference on the foreshore, is somewhat disturbing. Here you have one of the richest men in the world without so much as a personal computer. No Internet, not even Windows XP “the Lexus of software”. No larney network, think about that for a while — this could be rough paradise in a world in which the chintzy metalic
“connected laptop” and hyper-titanium “cross-linked, silicon machines” have outstripped our own human connections, not to mention consciousness.

Do machines think? Have Robots like Bill Gates taken over the world? If Microsoft hadn’t invented the err, computer, it would have invented the computer virus. Come to think of it, perhaps Windows 98 is pre-operating system HIV, while Windows XP is post-mobile HIV, can’t seem to remember when last people believed in a world without computers, a world without people like Bill Gates.

What a pleasure it would be, instead of emailing each other, we would write simple letters with pen and ink. Instead of mobile phones interrupting our patter, we would ignore the “ringing” telephone that would tell us how exactly how urgent or depressing a particular phone call was. Remember the social etiquette associated with landlines?

Nowadays people just drop in uninvited or simply stop calling out of embarresment. The power of one-button dialing and caller-tones has put an end to all that idle chitter chatter one had that passed for intimate and private conversaion. Windows on the other hand has destroyed the desktop, and our memories, and unleashed code kids unable to read and write in English.

Microsoft English and the Encarta Dictionary replaced Oxford and South African English. We are caught in a world in which the super-rich exist alongside shacks. What would I want to tell Bill if I had five pico-seconds of his time? Well it would be this — we need to end the digital divide, stop the knowledge gap that prevents us from communicating with each other because there are not enough libraries, because most of our nations literature is still not accessible online, because we are losing out to the spew of crap that emanates from the USA, that flows in a one-way direction only.

As Brian Eno once said, “the trouble with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.” How, I would want to ask Bill, do we put more Africa into the computer age without destroying something special and unique about ourselves? How do we avoid turning into Microsoft clones and XP idiots? Anyone reading, or is this just a blog for robots?