So often when injustice occurs, people fail to take action only to regret it later. I know that I have been guilty of this as have many others. However, it is time for change! I am inviting all who read this blog to participate directly in calling for Bloomberg Media to correct their stance on their December 15th article, Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton, (click here) particularly following the investigations of Fairtrade International and Limited Brands published a week ago. As both investigations clearly point out, the story is a fabrication, yet Bloomberg Media has refused to alter their stance despite repeated calls for correction. For a detailed inquiry and multiple press releases in this matter read:
I like a multi-pronged approach to social justice. Yes, the short-sighted news cycle has passed and their five minutes of fame in Burkina Faso has faded. However, I would like to press it with the editors of Bloomberg since they have never presented us with any additional sources which they claim to have, nor with any verification of ages.
There are multiple ways to approach Bloomberg with this issue, and I will provide you with a couple options!
Names and emails removed on 17 January, 2012 - see
It has come to my attention that a recent Bloomberg story, Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking Burkina Faso Cotton, dated 15 December, 2011, claimed forced child labour is used on Fair Trade certified organic cotton farms.
I am concerned that this story has remained unchallenged and has yet to be withdrawn by Bloomberg, particularly after the independent investigations by Fairtrade International and Limited Brands, published on the 3rd and 4th of January which found the story to be lacking in journalistic integrity.
A review of the findings suggests the story is a fabrication. The evidence is clear:
1) The main assertion in the story is against three Fairtrade organic cotton farmers for using forced child labour, Victorien Kamboule, Baasolokoun “Bassole” Dabire, and Louis Joseph Kambire. However, they are not certified by National Federation of Burkina Cotton Producers (UNPBC) as Fairtrade organic cotton growers, which is the only Fairtrade certification organisation in Burkina Faso. This fact can be independently verified through ECOCERT which has a copy of the UNPBC database.
2) When it comes to protecting the rights of exploited children in the media, Journalist Cam Simpson and the Bloomberg editors Flynn McRoberts and Meghan Womback decided to publish the names and identities of the children thereby violating their rights guaranteed under the UN Convention on Rights of the Child and against the guidelines established by the International Federation of Journalists.
3) The photographs taken by Chris Ratcliffe were clearly staged under the premise that he and the journalist Cam Simpson were working for an orphanage project which was a flagrant misrepresentation of their purpose. Furthermore, the Fairtrade International report states Clarisse and her family members were "'woken up early one morning and asked to pose in the cotton field' by the journalist, 'who introduced himself as working for an orphanage project and needed to select three children to be part of this program.'”
4) Clarisse neither lives nor works on a registered organic cotton farm in Burkina Faso. Rather, she works on a vegetable farm. The farmer, Victorien Kamboule grows vegetables for the local market, not organic cotton for export.
5) The 13 year-old girl featured in the story, Clarisse is not a minor, but 21 years-old.
Considering my high regard for the journalistic integrity of your news organization, I am disappointed that Bloomberg continues to stand by this story, which appears to be a fabrication from beginning to end.
I believe the Bloomberg journalist, Cam Simpson needs to be held accountable for the distortions present in the story; and the photojournalist, Chris Ratcliffe should be held accountable for staging a fabricated news photo shoot.
I am also concerned that the editorial leadership of Bloomberg has so far found no need to respond to this evidence. Firstly, they ran the story in clear violation of the children's rights for protection as spelled out under guidelines for journalists. Secondly, the Bloomberg editors also ran a story unchecked and without verification through UNPBC, the very first place editors should begin verifying facts in this case.
Considering the severity of the charges against Bloomberg, I would like to see a transparent and thorough third-party investigation of the alleged facts presented in Cam Simpson’s story and verification of the authenticity of the photographs presented by photographer Chris Ratcliffe with full public disclosure of the results. If the findings match the evidence compiled by the Fairtrade International and Limited Brands investigations I presume a prestigious news organization such as Bloomberg’s would understand the journalistic imperative in retracting the original story dated 15 December, 2011.
A third option for those who prefer direct dialogue, here are a few numbers in the US to contact:
Names and emails removed on 17 January, 2012 - see
Grassroots movements succeed because people like you are willing to spread the word! Share this blog post and the Change.org petition on social media, with your friends and family, and all those who believe in Fair Trade!!! Use this as a framework to initiate your own campaign on Bloomberg Media and make corporate media accountable!
Mitch Teberg, MA
Note: 48 hours into this campaign, I have been encouraged by the number of people emailing directly and even one who called and spoke to an Editor! It is good to remember these are people too, and that open dialogue is a positive thing!
For those who have not read the 2 previous posts where the original story is clearly linked, the link to the original Bloomberg article is linked as: (click here) in the first paragraph of this blog post...
For an update on this campaign, read Journey for Fair Trade:
Feel free to add your comments, thoughts or ideas below or catch me on facebook. For those who prefer to read on Black and White, or to print out this post, here it is in a downloadable pdf format: