Wed, 20 Nov 2019

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) has found Bloomberg did not commit unfair labour practices in a case involving senior journalist Sam Mkokeli.

Mkokeli took Bloomberg to the CCMA after a series of warnings which he alleged were unfair.

In December 2018, Bloomberg initiated disciplinary proceedings against the veteran journalist, saying he had violated its social media policy and subsequently issued a written warning.

The warning related to a tweet by Mkokeli on Telecommunications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The tweet was posted before she was announced as minister on November 22, 2018, and, translated to English, was captioned: "Here's the walk."

Bloomberg was of the view that the tweet had speculated she would soon become the telecommunications minister, which it said was against its social media policy as the tweet had broken news before it went onto the Bloomberg terminal.

That same month, the company issued Mkokeli a final written warning for the same offence.

He had again tweeted an article with the headline "ANC's Pule Mabe accused of sexual harassment by his PA". Mkokeli captioned it: "Thixo ka Fransman!"

This, the company said, was an opinion expressed by Mkokeli which was against its social media policy.

Commissioner L Shear, on behalf of the CCMA, said: "The social media policy is clear. It requires all journalists to be responsible for the content of all publications. It requires journalists, when in doubt, [to] ask questions and tweet later."

He added: "With regard to the tweet concerning the minister of telecommunications, it is common cause that the tweet appeared before Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was appointed as a minister.

"This is a violation of the requirement that all news should break first on the Bloomberg terminal and not on social media. The applicant as a senior journalist should have been cautious in ensuring that this did not take place."

The Mabe tweet, Shear said, in his view was also a breach of Bloomberg's social media policy.

"Whether or not the applicant had an opinion regarding Mabe or [Marius] Fransman's position in this regard, is irrelevant, the perception had been created through the tweet that there is or maybe [is] a relationship between the two...

"It is, therefore, my conclusion that the written warning and final written warning were fair and that the respondent [Bloomberg] did not commit an unfair labour practice in this regard."

Speaking to News24, Mkokeli said this was a blow to media freedom.

"It's a shocking outcome and a blow to media freedom, coming out eerily as we look back on Black Wednesday and the painful reminder of brutal apartheid censorship."

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