Complainant: Khutso Ngoasheng
Lodged by: Khutso Ngoasheng
Article: Their punanis buy them booze! – These ladies LOVE being the main attraction
Date: 5 February 2016
Respondent: Johan Vos, deputy editor of the Daily Sun
Ngoasheng is complaining about a headline and pictures on the front page of the Daily Sun of 19 January 2016. The headline read, Their punanis buy them booze! – These ladies LOVE being the main attraction.
He complains about the use of the word “punanis” as well as about the explicit nature of the pictures, adding that children were exposed to the material and that women were degraded by the use of these images. He asks that this type of reportage be kept away from front pages.
The story was about women who show their genitals on the street (in Mabopane, in the Tshwane municipal area) in order to get some free beer, and who allow men to touch them intimately.
The main picture, covering the entire front page, showed the back of a man close to a woman. The man’s hand was under the woman’s dress, but her genitals were not visible.
The second picture, an insert, showed a woman bending over with her genitals censored by means of a star shape.
The newspaper’s response
Vos says the Daily Sun is a tabloid newspaper for the people, which is why it refers to itself as the People’s Paper.
“We write about reality ekasi (township) life, and we don’t steer away from this reality – being brutal, heart-breaking, of a sexual nature, uplifting etc., but it all encompasses the human elements of living ekasi.”
Vos argues that the article in question dealt with the reality of women dancing for beer who, by their own admittance, did not mind being touched by the men buying the beer. “We kept these…dancing women anonymous to protect their identities. We also placed a star on the one woman’s bottom, thus preventing the picture being explicit. The main picture depicts a woman who is fully dressed.”
While the Press Code is the same for the press as a whole, this office should also keep in mind the readership of a newspaper, as well as the nature of that publication.
For example, the readership of a religious magazine would not expect pictures and words such as those in question as it certainly would not be appropriate.
The same does not apply to a tabloid whose readers are much more likely to anticipate such material.
Having said that, Section 9.2 of the Press Code (updated and in operation since 1 January 2016) is relevant in this case. It reads, “Content which depicts … explicit sex should be avoided unless the public interest dictates otherwise, in which case prominent indication and warning must be displayed indicating that such content is graphic and inappropriate for certain audiences such as children.”
Of importance is that the main picture did not identify the two people depicted in it, that the woman’s genitals were not visible, that both individuals were adults, and that this practice took place in public.
The same goes for the insert, which added censorship of the woman’s genitals with a star.
If the women were degraded by these acts, doing so was their choice – the newspaper did not force or induce them to act in this manner in public, and served merely as the messenger.
I also submit that knowledge of these practices is in the public interest, particularly where parents and children are concerned.
The complaint is dismissed.
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 Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.