Journalists and Freebies
It is obvious that everybody loves free things, you jump for joy every time you get something free, but what if receiving something free compromises your work ethics?
Companies invite the media to fun days and braais and at their events they have special packages for the media with some nice goodies in them, what are they actually hoping to achieve by doing this?
Let me tell you, they want the media not to publish or broadcast negatively about them. The question that should be asked is, does it work? Every journalist in Namibia will swear on his/her mother’s that it does not.
I’ve heard of journalist getting free tickets to the destination of their choice and of journalist being bought cars. It has also been speculated that a specific Embassy gave journalists money just to get coverage. Because of the salaries we get, only being able to get by from pay cheque to pay cheque, anyone will jump for these opportunities and accept them with open arms.
When we get one of those media day invites from some big company, my colleagues and I actually argue about who will go, because everyone wants to go, because we know for sure that there will be free drinks and food and we get to mingle socially with other journalist from different media houses, so much fun.
But the tables do turn, because at the end the truth will come out, we as journalists are supposedly the fourth estate and we should make everyone accountable for their actions, no matter the freebies they give us.
They try to blind us, so are we falling for it?
It is also speculated that these companies actually have a yearly budget for the media, to entertain them and to give them these freebies through out the year.
Is there not something better they can do with the money, than try to bribe us? Yes they do have a budget for their corporate responsibilities but you can never do enough to help the less fortunate, add the media budget to that.
We will come to your press conferences, we will come to your events, we will come to your launches, we will investigate you and ask you questions, without you giving us free food and surprise packages. It is our job after all.
Some media houses have decided that if journalist get gifts they should declare them and then the media house will decide what to do with these gifts, but that rarely happens.
How do we deal with this in Namibia and when does a journalist decide to accept this gift and not this one, where do we draw the line?
This is the dilemma and a one has to make up their own mind and be ethical and be steadfast in keeping to their principals.
Fortunately for me I will not be openly bribed, but I do go to the braais and I do take the free gifts that are offered to the media. But I guess it has become a norm, but the question is, when the day comes that someone tries to bribe me, what will I do?