Sgwili Gumede vs Sunday World

Complainant: Sgwili Gumede

Lodged by: Sgwili Gumede

Article:  F*ck Zuma – ANCYL

Date: 6 November 2015

Respondent: Abdul Milazi, editor of the Sunday World

Complaint

Gumede is complaining about a headline in Sunday World of 18 October 2015 (F*ck Zuma – ANCYL).

He complains that the language was graphic, offensive, foul and vile and not in keeping with the Press Code.

The arguments

Milazi says the headline was quoting the ANCYL regional secretary verbatim “and we put asterisk on the word…to avoid printing it out in full as this is standard practice the world over for offensive/swear words when they are printed in the media.”

The editor adds that he would understood the complaint if the word in question was used in full in the headline.

Gumede says he reads the headline as “fuck Zuma”. “The asterisk does nothing to hide the fact that they used such a word on a front headline in a space where people of different levels proficiency of the English language were present.”

He mentions that his 12-year old daughter asked him if a newspaper should use such language.

Gumede also argues that this word was of insulting of the President. “The newspaper could well have told the story inside the paper without that kind of language on the cover.”

My considerations

Section 2.7 of the Press Code says, “Reports…relating to indecency or obscenity shall be presented with due sensitivity to the prevailing moral climate…”

I take into account that the newspaper is a tabloid, and that readers can justifiably expect a word such as “f*ck” in that publication. If this word was published in, say, a religious magazine, I would have argued that the readers would not have expected such language and that the publication did not show “due sensitivity to the prevailing moral climate”.

Being a tabloid, though, I agree with the editor that the use of the asterisk showed enough “due sensitivity” – even though it referred to the President.

I therefore do not enough have no reason to believe that the newspaper, in exercising its right to freedom of expression, has transgressed the boundaries that exist.

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