Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala vs Sunday World

Complainant: Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala

Lodged by: Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala

Article: Moholo in holy war

Author of article: Somaya Stockenstroom

Date: 19 February 2014

Respondent: Sunday World

Complaint

Twala complains about a story headlined Moholo in holy war, published in Sunday World on 3 February 2014.

He says that the:

  • statement in the story where Solly Moholo called him a snake was not accurate and fair, and that it has harmed his reputation; and
  • street posters did not give a reasonable reflection of the story.

The text

The story, written by Somaya Stockenstroom, reported that gospel music veteran Solly Moholo said that he was sick and tired of being ill-treated by the ANC – and in this regard “has taken a swipe at Sello ‘Chicco’ Twala, calling him ‘a snake’ (because he allegedly did not return his call).” He reportedly vented his frustration after he had been allegedly given the run-around during and after the ANC’s 102nd anniversary celebrations and the 2014 election manifesto launch on January 11.

Analysis

The story

Twala complains that the statement in the story where Moholo called him a snake was not accurate and fair, and says that this reporting has harmed his reputation.

He says that Stockenstroom asked him for comment (prior to publication) on Moholo’s remark that he was a snake. He then immediately phoned the gospel singer, who denied that he ever said such a thing. The latter also refuted the statement that this reporter spoke to him, and told him that he (Twala) had nothing to do with the matter.

Twala adds that he phoned Stockenstroom back and informed her about Moholo’s denials – yet she continued to publish this lie.

Sunday World says that Moholo did implicate Twala and maintains that the comment about the latter being a snake was accurate.

In later correspondence the publication offers to do an interview with Twala (which he refuses). The editor also says: “[The reporter] still has her notes from the interview, and we will bring such to the hearing, should this matter go that far.”

I have obtained these notes and interviewed the journalist – and am satisfied that they are authentic.

The further question is if Stockenstroom was justified in reporting the statement in question. A journalist should not report a statement merely because it was made.

In this regard I need to distinguish between hurtful and harmful speech. The latter is protected in Section 16 of the Bill of Rights, the former is not. This section (as reflected in the Preamble to the Press Code) mentions propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence and advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion which constitutes incitement to cause harm.

Clearly, the reference to being a snake was hurtful, but not harmful in the sense outlined above.

I am also mindful of the fact that, if this office finds hurtful speech to be in breach of the Press Code, it would eventually stifle freedom of expression, which is also protected in Section 16 of the Bill of Rights.

Given this scenario, I have no other choice but to accept that Stockenstroom’s reporting was justified. Of course, this does not mean that Moholo’s statement about Twala being a snake was correct in itself – it only suggests that the former was entitled to his opinion, and that the journalist was within her rights to report it.

The street poster

The poster read: CHICCO IS A SNAKE – ARTIST.

Twala complains that this poster did not give a reasonable reflection of the story, and that it was merely used to sell the paper. He says that this had negatively impacted his business, as his credibility and reputation had been questioned.

Sunday World replies that the reference to an “artist” made it clear that it was not the publication who uttered those words, but a source. The editor adds that, when deciding on posters, the punchier/stronger part of a story gets preference. “The fact is that the ‘snake’ comment by Mr Moholo was part of the story. The fact that he denies it now does not necessarily mean that he did not utter those words. Our reporter says he did and she wrote it down when she spoke to him.”

This argument is convincing – the reference in question was part of the story, and I have already decided that the reporting was justified. It follows that this went of the poster as well.

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 Adjudication 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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