ANC vs City Press

Complainant: ANC

Lodged by: Jackson Mthembu

Article: Seshego shuns Ramaphosa

Date: 10 November 2013

Respondent: City Press

THE TEXT

The story was published in City Press on 10 November 2013, and headlined Seshego shuns Ramaphosa. The complainant was Mr Jackson Mthembu, ANC National Spokesperson.

After three attempts to settle the matter, the eventual drafts by the ANC and the newspaper are identical in all respects (which is to be highly commended), save for one statement that the former wants to be included – namely to state that the journalist “omitted” the detail that the person who had been particularly hostile to Ramaphosa appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. City Press does not agree to this inclusion.

To my mind, this is much ado about nothing. Please take a step back and consider that both drafts state: “Another media report at the time stated that one of the residents who was particularly hostile to Mr Ramaphosa (our story also referred to this incident) ‘appeared to be under the influence of alcohol’.” (emphasis added)

If words have meanings, the reference to “another media report” specifically implies that the reporter did not make this statement (read: omitted it).

I therefore do not find it necessary that the story should repeat itself to specifically include the words “our reporter omitted this detail”, and rule that the third draft version of City Press should be published (as communicated to the Public Advocate in an email dated February 5).

Seen like this, it is not really relevant if the person was actually drunk or not.

For your convenience, this text reads as follows (with a few minor editorial changes):

Beginning of text

City Press reported in a story headlined Seshego shuns Ramaphosa (published on 10 November 2013) that ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa had received a cold welcome on the streets of Mr Julius Malema’s neighbourhood. The ANC then lodged a complaint with the press ombudsman, saying that the story was unfair and that the headline was misleading and created the false impression that the entire Seshego community was hostile towards the deputy president.

Due to printing deadlines at the time, we could not cover all the engagements that Ramaphosa was to attend in Seshego on that day.

The story reflected that part of his visit which we attended and was based on an eye-witness account from our reporter. Another media report at the time stated that one of the residents who had been particularly hostile to Ramaphosa (our story also reflected this incident) “appeared to be under the influence of alcohol”.

We did not intend to mislead the public by implying that the whole of Seshego had “shunned” Ramaphosa. We apologise if our story was understood in this way. We accept that he was warmly welcomed in the other parts of Seshego.

End of text

HEADLINE, PLACEMENT

It is normal practice that, when an apology is published (such as in this case), the headline should accordingly reflect that fact. Therefore, I am asking to newspaper to comply on this issue.

Section 2.6 of the Press Code also requires that such apology should be printed “with appropriate prominence”.

I am leaving the decision where to publish the apology up to the newspaper, in the same co-operative spirit that the two parties have shown in almost reaching an agreement before turning to me.

APPEAL

Our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chair of Appeals, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds for the application. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman