Sarojini Govender vs Tribune Herald

Complainant: Sarojini Govender

Lodged by: Sarojini Govender

Article: PR councilor in assault, kidnapping case

Author of article: Clinton Moodley

Date: 16 August 2015

Respondent: Ms Abigail Oliver, on behalf of the Tribune Herald

Complaint

Govender, 50, is complaining about a story in the Tribune Herald of 21 June 2015, headlined PR councilor in assault, kidnapping case.

She complains that the story:

·         contained details of the alleged charges against her before she had had an opportunity to plead and that this has prejudiced her case and harmed her dignity; and

·         presented some of the allegations as fact.

The text

The story, written by Clinton Moodley, said that Govender has been charged with the assault and kidnapping of her brother’s ex-girlfriend, Brenda Pillay. She reportedly appeared in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court and had been released on bail of R1 500 (on June 17).

Analysis

Identified prior to having pleaded

Oliver says the charges against Govender were publicly put to her when she appeared in court and that the newspaper identified her afterwards. “[I]t is confirmed that the article was published after the bail was granted and thus the accused has been formally charged.”

I note that this information was confirmed by major Thulani Zwane of the KZN SAPS media centre.

Presenting allegations as fact

This part of the complaint has no legs to stand on. Moodley used the words “allegedly”, “according to a source” and “it is believed” consistently. There are two sentences which, viewed in isolation, may have been interpreted as presenting an allegation as fact (“She later drove to eMdloti and told Pillay to strip”, and “On the same day, Govender also tool Pillay to a hairdresser…”)

However, I am satisfied that these two statements should not be seen in isolation, which means that the whole story should be interpreted as allegations and not as fact.

Finding

I am satisfied that the story was materially correct, and am therefore dismissing the complaint.

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