Complainant: Major General Shadrack Sibiya
Article: Valke-hoof het glo vriende in lae plekke
Date: 3 March 2014
The story, headlined Valke-hoof het glo vriende in lae plekke, was published in Beeld on 13 January 2014. The complainant is Major General Shadrack Sibiya, head of the Hawks in Gauteng.
The story, written by Maygene de Wee, was about information that Sibiya had had close relations with two people in the Cape underworld.
Beeld has offered to apologise for certain aspects of the story. Sibiya rejected its first draft, after which the newspaper formulated a second one, adding some of his concerns. He refused to accept that text as well.
My task now is to decide if this second apology was sufficient and, if not, how it can be amended to satisfy the cause of justice and fairness.
This text reads:
In ‘n berig “Valke-hoof het glo vriende op lae plekke” op 14 Januarie vanjaar het Beeld verkeerdelik berig majgenl. Shadrack Sibiya, Gauteng-hoof van die Valke, besit ‘n Audi Q9 wat nog nie in Suid-Afrika beskikbaar is nie, maar net in Duitsland. Sibiya sê hy besit geen Audi nie.
In dieselfde berig word anonieme bronne onder meer aangehaal as dat Sibiya glo ‘n verbintenis het met twee mans in die Kaapse onderwêreld.
Beeld het in hierdie berig art. 2.5 van die Perskode – wat ‘n verantwoordelikheid op die koerant plaas om die persoon oor wie geskryf word se kommentaar te kry indien daar ernstige bewerings teen hom gemaak is – oortree. Sibiya se kommentaar kon nie voor die plasing verkry word nie, wat wel in die berig aangedui is. Sibiya het nou gesê uit die aard van sy werk as ‘n polisiebeampte is hy in die uitvoering van sy take om te beskerm en te dien daarop geregtig om enigiemand te ontmoet, maak nie saak uit welke agtergrond die mense is nie.
Beeld vra om verskoning indien die bewerings Sibiya se beeld as Valke-hoof onnodige skade berokken het.
I am combining Sibiya’s motivations for refusing to accept Beeld’s text and for insisting that matters other than those addressed in this apology should be added. My comments are next to the issues that he raised:
Sibiya My considerations
|The meeting between him and “people in low” places never took place – he says he has evidence that he was abroad at the time that this alleged encounter took place.
|The gist of the complaint is not that the meeting never took place (Sibiya himself justifies him meeting with people from any sphere of life) – it is rather about the suggestion that Sibiya had “friends” in the underworld. I therefore do not think that this issue is material to the story.
|Even then, he was entitled to meet with all levels of people without being prejudiced.
|This is sufficiently dealt with in Beeld’s text.
|The statement about the Audi is not only wrong (as admitted by Beeld) – the real problem is that a picture was painted that he drove an expensive car with the suggestion that he was in the pocket of the underworld.||The story quoted a policeman who reportedly said that the question should be asked who bought the vehicle. This indeed suggested that Sibiya was “in the pocket of the underworld”. As this could have caused him some serious harm, it should be included in the text (which is absent in Beeld’s last draft).
|The newspaper did not verify its information that it had gleaned from anonymous sources – now the publication should admit that it was misled by these sources.
|The story included views from two sources, which does mean that the newspaper attempted to corroborate its story. The fact that these sources were both anonymous is neither here nor there. Beeld’s apology already suggests that the information obtained from its sources were incorrect. However, it would do no harm to state that fact.
He wants the apology to include the following:
Sibiya My considerations
|He did not own an Audi Q9.
|Beeld’s text already states this fact.|
|He did not have friends in the underworld.
|Beeld cannot state this as fact, because it has only Sibiya’s word for it. However, it is important to add to the apology that Sibiya denies that he has friends in the underworld – that would also help the public to understand that he denies being in the pocket of the underworld.
|He was entitled to meet with people from any sphere of influence.
|Beeld’s text already states this fact.|
|The newspaper operated unethically and in breach of the Press Code.
|Beeld already admits that it was in breach of the Press Code. It is not necessary to state that it had operated unethically, as any breach of the Code implies this.
|The story was damaging and aimed at bringing his reputation into disrepute.||Beeld’s text already states that the story “may have” caused Sibiya harm. However, that is not strong enough – the nature of the article is such that it is reasonable to accept that it in fact did cause him some unnecessary harm (read: The Audi, and those who may have bought it for him). The words “may have” should therefore be replaced with “because”. Because I do believe that Beeld’s sources did give it the wrong information about the Audi, I am not convinced at all that the newspaper aimed at bringing Sibiya’s reputation into disrepute.
|The apology must be unconditional.
|Any real apology should be unconditional. The words “vra om verskoning” are enough, but then the word “indien” should be replaced with “omdat” (as indicated above).
With all of these considerations in mind, I am keeping most of Beeld’s text as it is, but I am also amending it here and there:
The amended text reads:
In ‘n berig “Valke-hoof het glo vriende op lae plekke” op 14 Januarie vanjaar het Beeld verkeerdelik berig genl.maj. Shadrack Sibiya, Gauteng-hoof van die Valke, besit ‘n Audi Q9 (wat nog nie in Suid-Afrika beskikbaar is nie, maar net in Duitsland). Hierdie foutiewe inligting is van ‘n bron ontvang.
In dieselfde berig word anonieme bronne verder aangehaal wat sou gesê het dat Sibiya glo ‘n verbintenis met twee mans in die Kaapse onderwêreld het. Die indruk word ook gelaat dat hierdie “vriende” dalk vir hom die Audi gekoop het.
Beeld het in hierdie berig Art. 2.5 van die Perskode – wat ‘n verantwoordelikheid op die koerant plaas om die persoon oor wie krities geskryf word se kommentaar te kry – oortree. Sibiya se kommentaar kon nie voor die plasing verkry word nie, wat wel in die berig aangedui is.
Sibiya het nou gesê uit die aard van sy werk as ‘n polisiebeampte is hy in die uitvoering van sy take daarop geregtig om enigiemand te ontmoet, maak nie saak uit welke agtergrond die mense is nie.
Hy het ook ontken dat hy vriende in die boewewêreld het en verwerp daarmee die gedagte dat dié mense vir hom ‘n motor gekoop het.
Beeld vra om verskoning omdat die bewerings oor die Audi en diegene wat dit dalk vir hom sou gekoop het, Sibiya se beeld as Valke-hoof onnodige skade berokken het.
Besoek www.pressouncil.org.za vir die volledige bevinding van die Persombudsman.
The story in dispute appeared on page 4. I leave it up to Beeld to decide whether to publish this text on the same page, or on the one which it normally uses for apologies/corrections (page 2).
Because of the nature of the apology, that word – together with Sibiya’s name – should appear in the headline.
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.