Mario Wanza vs Cape Argus

Complainant: Mario Wanza

Article: Zuma takes off gloves – Chaos at city meeting follows stern words on youth league’s role in party

Date: 20 May 2012

Respondent: Cape Argus

Complaint

Mr Mario Wanza complains about a story in the Argus on 24 February 2012, headlined Zuma takes off gloves – Chaos at city meeting follows stern words on youth league’s role in party.

He complains that the story mistakenly says or implies that a UDF group was heckling at a meeting which Pres Jabob Zuma was addressing.

Analysis

The story, written by Michelle Pietersen and compiled from SAPA, describes what took place at the Zuma meeting. It says that a section of the crowd jeered him while he was speaking. The disenchanted group were reportedly in the vicinity of or next to a UDF banner.

Wanza objects to the following words: “As he began a group behind a United Democratic Front banner started heckling, with another group of up to 300 joining in, booing …” He says that this portrays  the UDF in a negative light.

He says that the UDF members were respectful and silent throughout the proceedings and complains that the report conveyed an untrue picture of the UDF members.

The Argus points out that the newspaper was at pains to identify the group as UDF members and adds that in fact the heckling had its origin from the audience behind the banner. That is why it did not report that UDF members were heckling, but rather that a group positioned behind the banner was doing so.

The newspaper says that the report was factual and was an actual portrayal of what had happened. It adds that the mention of the UDF banner was necessary as a “description or device in order to report on the events in a chronological or logical fashion”.

 

Wanza denies that his group initiated the heckling or was involved in it.

The issue for consideration is whether the report is substantially correct.

Both the newspaper and Wanza accept that the heckling emanated from people who were in the immediate vicinity of the banner. I note that the story does not specifically attribute the heckling to Wanza’s group – in fact, it merely describes the location of that heckling as being behind the banner.

If they were behind the banner, then that is a fact that cannot be avoided.

No information is available to question the accuracy of the report, save for Wanza’s denial, which is insufficient to be of assistance in challenging the accuracy of a report.

I also take into account that another journalist from another newspaper also mentioned the UDF banner. In fact, it goes further and explicitly says that it was UDF supporters who began jeering.

I therefore conclude that I have no reason to accept that the story was not substantially correct.

 
Finding
 
The complaint is dismissed.
 
Appeal

The Complaints Procedure permits a party to apply for leave to appeal against a decision of the Press Ombudsman. An application for leave to appeal, fully setting out the grounds, may be made to the Chairperson of the South African Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman. He may be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

 
Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman

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