Solly Moholo vs Sunday World

Complainant: Solly Moholo

Lodged by: Solly Moholo

Article: Moholo in holy war

Author of article: Somaya Stockenstroom

Date: 21 February 2014

Respondent: Sunday World

Complaint

This ruling is based on the written submissions of gospel music veteran Solly Moholo and Abdul Milazi, editor of the Sunday World newspaper.

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

He denies that he ever called Mr Sello Twala a snake, as reported.

The text

The story, written by Somaya Stockenstroom, stated that Moholo had said that he had been 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

I have obtained the journalist’s notes and also interviewed her – and am satisfied that her notes are authentic.

Moholo admits that he used the word snake, but explains that he actually meant himself.

This is not supported by the notes. The first mention of snake reads like this: “I don’t want to blame Chicco, but he never ever came back to me. ‘Snake’.”

It is hard to interpret this as referring to Moholo, and not to Twala.

The second reference to “snake” can be interpreted in more than one way.

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 the statement in dispute 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.

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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