The Gauteng Department of Education vs The Star and Rapport

Complainant: The Gauteng Department of Education

Lodged by: Mr Charles Phahlane

Article: Pa verkla skool by Pansat en Menseregtekommissie.

Date: 11 March 2011

Respondent: The Star and Rapport

Complaint
Mr Charles Phahlane complains about a story in The Star, published on September 6, 2010, and headlined Twins in school racism row, as well as about a story in Rapport, published on September 11, 2010, and headlined Pa verkla skool by Pansat en Menseregtekommissie.
The complaint in both cases is that the names of minors were mentioned.
Analysis
The story in The Star says that two Rooseveldt High School girls claim that they have been punished for speaking Xhosa while at school. The twins, both then in Grade 11, are identified (Luthando and Lusanda Nxasana). The story reports that during two months of “clashes”, the school called the police to report the twins because they “were a danger to 800 other pupils and teachers of the Joburg school, who felt threatened by them”. Their father has reportedly laid charges of racism and hate speech at the SA Human Rights Commission as well as charges of intimidation with the police.
The story in Rapport says that a parent has laid charges of hate speech and racism against Rooseveldt High School at the Human Rights Commission after one of his daughters was allegedly prohibited from speaking Xhosa in class. The father reportedly also laid charges against staff members of the Roosevelt High School with the Pan South African Language Board. The story says that these charges were mainly about an incident in May and how the school handled the matter in the months that followed.
We shall now consider the merits of the complaint:
Phahlane says that The Star made inquiries with his department, who responded by informing the newspaper that “due to the sensitivity of the matter in that it involved minor children, the provisions of Section 110 of the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005, were invoked”. He adds that he informed the newspaper that the matter was under investigation. He concludes that the newspaper should have known better than to mention the names of the minors involved.
Regarding Rapport he complains that, as the children were minors, the newspaper is in contravention of the same section of the Children’s Act mentioned above. He concludes that the newspaper should have known better than to mention the names of the minors involved.
The Star argues that the children’s father gave it permission to publish their names.
Rapport says that there is nothing in the Press Code that prohibits it to use the name of a 17-year old. The newspaper also argues that, in terms of the law, the protection of the identity of children has to do with criminal cases, civil matters, divorce, maintenance, family violence and sexual misconduct.
This matter is rather simple: If the father gave the newspapers permission to identify his (minor) children, the publications were at liberty to use their names. So I checked with the father, who confirmed that he did give his permission – to both newspapers.
The newspapers were therefore at liberty to use their names.
Finding
 
The complaint is dismissed.
Sanction
There is no sanction.
If the newspaper wishes to publish (a summary of) the finding, it should add the following sentence at the end of the text: “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za (rulings, 2011) for the full finding.”
Appeal
Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, anyone of the parties may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be reached at khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.
Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman