Jacqueline Maaronhanye vs Sunday Sun

Complainant: Jacqueline Maaronhanye

Lodged by: Jacqueline Maaronhanye

Article: Jub Jub jail sex shock! ‘Raunchy sounds gave them away

Author of article: Kgomotso Moganedi

Date: 10 September 2014

Respondent: Sunday Sun

Complaint

Maaronhanye is complaining about an article published on page 1 and 2 in the Sunday Sun of 8 June 2014, headlined Jub Jub jail sex shock! ‘Raunchy sounds gave them away.

She complains that the story falsely states that, while in prison, Jub Jub:

  • was caught having sex;
  • enjoyed special privileges (implying that he had not been paying his debt to society, that he was unrepentant and that he was not abiding by the rules); and
  • was supposed to perform at a prison event, but had “vanished” before the performance.

The family also argues that not only have the allegations unnecessarily harmed his reputation and dignity, but they may also impact negatively on his (current) appeal process.

More details about the complaint follow below.

The text

The story, written by Kgomotso Moganedi, said that Molemo “Jub Jub” Maaronhanye (who was serving a 25-year sentence for murder, attempted murder, driving under the influence of drugs and racing on a public road) was reportedly caught having sex with a female visitor at the prison.  Moganedi wrote that Jub Jub was transferred to another, tougher prison immediately after this incident. She quoted an anonymous prison official who reportedly said: “The loud screams and raunchy sounds gave them away and they were caught in action.” It was also alleged that Jub Jub enjoyed preferential treatment.

Analysis

             The story                                                           The family

A warder caught Jub Jub giving his “nyatsi” a “correctional service”. He has never had a disciplinary hearing, nor has he been guilty of any misconduct while serving his sentence. As such, no inappropriate sexual activity has been recorded in his file nor was he “caught by a warder in a sexually compromising position”.
A senior prison official said Jub Jub enjoyed a lot of privileges inside the prison. He enjoys the same privileges as all incarcerated prisoners both at Johannesburg Prison and at Leeuwkop Prison. The newspaper failed to indicate what these alleged privileges were. If anything, some of his rights and privileges are affected by his public profile.
A warder claims Jub Jub was supposed to perform at a prison function, but that he had vanished before the performance. He was never scheduled to perform at an event for some incarcerated prisoners. He agreed to provide some sponsorship via his company, but strongly declined to provide musical entertainment.
Warder Zodwa Mtsweni of the Department of Correctional Services was mentioned. According to Correctional Services staff, there is no warder by the name of Zodwa Motweni – implying that the newspaper used a fictitious source.

Boerner replies that Moganedi:

  • was contacted by an inmate at the prison (I have his name, but shall keep it confidential), informing him that Jub Jub:
    • had been caught having sex with a female visitor;
    • did not show up to perform at a thanksgiving ceremony – “It was thereafter that he was caught having sexual intercourse with his girlfriend”;
  • put the allegations to the Department of Correctional Services, whose spokesperson responded to questions.

He also provided me with the names of the:

  • warrant officer who allegedly caught the couple in action; and
  • warder who had confirmed the incident.

Boerner argues: “The allegations relating to the incident were thus confirmed by two independent witnesses and the [newspaper]was justified in relying on the information.”

He notes that the story contained comment by the Department to the effect that Jub Jub’s transfer to another prison had no bearing on the allegations and that he was moved as part of an overcrowding management process.

Regarding the allegation of special privileges, Boerner provided me with some documentary evidence by the Department of Correctional Services to this effect, and states: “The allegations relating to the privileges were thus confirmed by two independent witnesses as well as documentation from the department, therefore the [newspaper]was justified in relying on the information. [Jub Jub’s] controversial disciplinary record is confirmed by investigations conducted by the Department of Correctional Services.”

He adds that the information about Jub Jub’s absence from the performance was confirmed by the newspaper’s sources (which justified the newspaper to rely on these data), and argues that it was presented as an allegation and not as fact. A denial of this allegation was also published.

Boerner also replies that the story mentioned Zodwa Mtsweni (and not “Motweni”, as spelled by Maaronhanye) – who is the spokesperson for the Johannesburg Prison. As such, he is not a fictitious source, as alleged by Maaronhanye.

Lastly, he denies that the article has destroyed Jub Jub’s good name – the latter is a convicted murderer and a self-confessed drug user, who has destroyed his own name and reputation. “It can hardly be said that reporting on his sexual antics will lower his reputation and dignity…” He also denies that the story could have a detrimental effect on any appeal lodged by Jub Jub.

My considerations

The two main issues are the statements that Jub Jub had sex in prison, and that he enjoyed other special privileges.

Having been alerted to the fact that the Department was on the verge of completing its investigation into the alleged incident, I decided to wait for the outcome before making a decision. After the investigation had been completed, the Department informed me that it would not release the outcome, but it did indicate that it would respond to questions.

So, I asked them:

  • Did Jub Jub have sex in prison;
  • Was he caught having sex in prison;
  • Did he enjoy special privileges; and
  • Was he moved from one prison to another because of the alleged incident?

The response to all these questions was “no”.

However, of vital importance is the fact that nowhere in the story did the journalist state his information as fact – he consistently presented it as allegations (unlike another publication which has transgressed the Press Code on the same issue because it presented allegations as fact).

This does not mean that just any allegation may be published. The Code makes it clear that there has to be some substance to the matter. In this case, though, I take into account that the newspaper used two independent sources, that it had documented proof that Jub Jub’s activities in prison was being investigated, and that the story also included counter-allegations from the prison’s spokesperson.

I refer in this regard to Judge J.A. Hefer’s well-known statement in the case of National Media Ltd. and Others vs. Bogoshi (ruling made on 29 September 1998):

“…the publication in the press of false defamatory allegations of fact will not be regarded as unlawful if, upon a consideration of all the circumstances of the case, it is found to have been reasonable to publish the particular facts in the particular way and at the particular time.

“In considering the reasonableness of the publication account must obviously be taken of the nature, extent and tone of the allegations. We know, for instance, that greater latitude is usually allowed in respect of political discussion…and that the tone in which a newspaper article is written, or the way in which it is presented, sometimes provides additional, and perhaps unnecessary, sting. What will also figure prominently, is the nature of the information on which the allegations were based and the reliability of their source, as well as the steps taken to verify the information.

“Ultimately there can be no justification for the publication of untruths, and members of the press should not be left with the impression that they have a licence to lower the standards of care which must be observed before defamatory matter is published in a newspaper…a high degree of circumspection must be expected of editors and their editorial staff on account of the nature of their occupation; particularly, I would add, in light of the powerful position of the press and the credibility which it enjoys amongst large sections of the community.”

These factors, when combined, justified the publication of allegations as allegations by the newspaper. I therefore believe it was “reasonable to publish the particular facts in the particular way and at the particular time”. This does not mean to say that the allegations were true – I only conclude that, given the situation, Sunday Sun was justified in its reporting.

This means that I also do not believe that the article unnecessarily tarnished Jub Jub’s reputation and dignity.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

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 Chairperson of the SA Press Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman