Robert Miller vs Cape Times

Complainant: Robert Miller

Lodged by: Robert Miller

Article: Noakes’s ‘dangerous diet may cause cancer’ – Eating animals potentially lethal

Author of article: Rohan Millson

Date: 18 January 2016

Respondent: Abigail Oliver, on behalf of the Cape Times

Complaint

Miller is complaining about an opinion article in Cape Times on page 6 of 2 December 2016, headlined Noakes’s ‘dangerous diet may cause cancer’ – Eating animals potentially lethal.

He complains that the:

·         writer of the article seemed to be under the “illusion” that the Noakes’s diet (called “banting”) was a high protein diet, when in fact it was a moderate protein diet;

·         author did not take into account that the World Health Organisation has clarified that all processed meat, including bacon and hot dogs, should not be lumped into a single category (a merger which, he says, has led to a skewed perception of what Noakes had tried to convey); and

·         article was biased, as the writer did not disclose the fact that he was an anti-meat consumption vegan.

Miller concludes that the article amounted to fear mongering, defamation and ridicule.

The text

The article, written by Rohan Millson, was critical of Prof Tim Noakes’s banting diet, calling the latter a conman and a ghoul.

The newspaper’s response

Cape Times argues that:

·         Miller does not have the standing to complain – if he was acting on Noakes’s behalf, he should have written permission to do so;

·         the text was clearly marked as an opinion page;

·         Noakes has welcomed articles critical of him, because he believed that honest debate was healthy; and

·         Cape Times has also published opinion articles in favour of Noakes, thereby giving equal opportunity to diverse viewpoints on banting.

Analysis

Miller does have the standing to complain about the issue as such, as healthy eating habits are in the public interest. However, this does not go for defamation and ridicule, as these parts of the complaint reflect on Noakes as a person (for which Miller indeed does need Noakes’s permission to complain).

Secondly, it really does not matter if Millson was correct or not – he has an opinion on the banting diet, and in a democratic South Africa he has the freedom to express his views, as the newspaper has the (same) freedom to report these opinions. The only requirement in this regard is that the text should be presented as opinion, which it did.

It is as simple as that.

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

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman

 

 

 

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