Saccawu vs The Star

Complaint: Saccawu

Lodged by: Mduduzi Mbongwe

Article: Court bid by labour department to put Cosatu affiliate Ceppwawu in curatorship

Date: 24 August 2015

Respondent: Kevin Ritchie, editor of The Star

Complaint

Saccawu is complaining about a story in The Star of 8 August 2015, headlined Court bid by labour department to put Cosatu affiliate Ceppwawu in curatorship.

Mbongwe complains that the:

·         story inaccurately stated as fact that Saccawu had been involved in a purported court bid to put it under curatorship should it renege on debt repayments totaling R30-million; and

·         journalist never verified her information.

He says, “We are trying to figure out if this is a case of negligent reporting, dereliction of duties or some campaign to vilify trade unions and viciously pain them in a manner that satisfies a particular agenda.”

Analysis

Ritchie admits that the reporter – who does not work for The Star – got it wrong.

I also note that, if she did try to verify the information with Saccawu (which somehow I doubt), she should have stated so.

I have no reason to believe that the newspaper promoted a particular agenda.

Finding

The statements, as complained about, were inaccurate and unfair, and therefore in breach of Section 2.1 of the Press Code that states, “The press shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.”

It was also breaching Section 2.5 of the Code: “A publication shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication… If the publication is unable to obtain such comment, this shall be stated in the report.”

Seriousness of breaches

Under the headline Hierarchy of sanctions, Section 8 of our Complaints Procedures distinguishes between minor breaches (Tier 1), serious breaches (Tier 2) and serious misconduct (Tier 3).

The mistakes made by The Star and the neglect to ask Saccawu for its comments were likely to cause the union some unnecessary harm. These breaches are therefore Tier 2 offences.

Sanction

The Star is directed to apologise to Saccawu for the inaccurate and unfair statements that Saccawu had been involved in a purported court bid to put it under curatorship should it renege on debt repayments totaling R30-million, and to correct these mistakes. It should also apologise for the neglect to ask the union for its comments.

The newspaper is directed to furnish me with the text, which should end with the words, “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.”

This text should be published on page 2 and if it was carried on the newspaper’s website, it should go there as well.

The headline should reflect the content of the text. A heading such as “Matter of Fact”, or something similar, is not acceptable.

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