Zenith Mia vs Drum

Complainant: Zenith Mia

Lodged by: Zenith Mia

Article: Scandal: Jub Jub’s sex partner revealed

Author of article:  Ntombizodwa Makhoba

Date: 3 September 2014

Respondent: Drum

Complaint

Mia is complaining about a story published in Drum on 26 June 2014, with a front-page headline reading Scandal: Jub Jub’s sex partner revealed. The story itself was published on pages 8 and 9, headlined Prison loverboy. (The text has been reprinted and circulated on the internet sites Times Live, Zalebs, iafrica and The Juice.)

She complains that the:

  • story unfairly, inaccurately and untruthfully stated that she had sex with Jub Jub in prison;
  • article was based on rumour and allegations, and that the information was not corroborated; and
  • journalist did not approach her for comment.

She adds that the allegations have unnecessarily harmed her reputation and dignity.

The text

The story, written by Ntombizodwa Makhoba, said that Molemo “Jub Jub” Maaronhanye (who was serving a 25-year sentence for murder, attempted murder, driving under the influence of drugs and racing on a public road) “was caught having sex with a female visitor” at the prison. Makhoba wrote: “It is rumoured that a tall, light-skinned brunette fitting [Mia’s] description was seen sneaking into [the prison]in a prison warder uniform… Later she was caught having sex with Jub Jub.” Makhoba wrote that Jub Jub was transferred to Johannesburg Prison immediately after this incident.

Analysis

Mia says she can state under oath that on May 5, she:

  • went to the Johannesburg prison, medium C, in her capacity as a director of Rare Breed Entertainment (which had contributed to the sponsorship of an event there, in honour of “20 years of democracy celebration”) and that she was accompanied by her colleague Mr Pablo Sehloho, CEO of Rare Breed Entertainment;
  • had no contact with Jub Jub on that occasion; and
  • never had any form of communication with anyone from Drum.

She complains that the unfounded and uncorroborated rumours and allegations naming her as “the woman who had sex in prison” have adversely affected her family, her work and her social and religious life.

Drum replies that Mia was seen at Jub Jub’s trial on several occasions and was a convicted drug smuggler. “We were alerted to the fact that she had served four year(s) in prison in Japan for drug smuggling.”

The editor says that Drum had three sources (two inmates and a Correctional Services official) who all substantiated the information. In addition, the magazine spoke to a friend who was close to both Mia and Jub Jub, as well as to his former girlfriend. She adds that Mia has “always” been associated with Jub Jub.

Zwane-Siguqa also states that:

  • Drum (unsuccessfully) tried to get information from Correctional Services, “and we thought it was reasonably true because of the three sources and the numerous claims of ‘special privileges’ he has been receiving”;
  • the journalist did speak to Mia at court (where she confirmed that she was Jub Jub’s girlfriend), and that numerous calls to her mobile phone went unanswered;
  • Mia did not deny that she was the one who had been “caught” with Jub Jub in prison; and
  • Mia fitted the description given to Drum by three sources.

The editor concludes that it was reasonable for the magazine to believe that the story was true.

My considerations

Having been alerted to the fact that the Department was on the verge of completing its investigation into the alleged incident, I decided to wait for the outcome before making a decision.

After the investigation had been completed, the Department informed me that it would not release the outcome, but it did indicate that it would respond to questions.

So, I asked them:

  • Did Jub Jub have sex in prison;
  • Was he caught having sex in prison;
  • Was he moved from one prison to another because of the above; and
  • Is it true that Mia was in any way involved in this matter?

The response to all the questions was “no” – which leads me to accept that the allegations were false.

I have noted that, while the article sporadically mentioned that the statements in dispute were allegations and while these had been ascribed to sources, the overall impression created was that the allegations were in fact correct. This observation is substantiated by the bulk of the story, as well as by the headlines.

Even if Drum did attempt to contact Mia, and had reason to believe its sources (rightly or wrongly), it was not at liberty to portray these damning allegations as fact. Also, the Press Code requires from publications that, if comment cannot be obtained from the subject of critical reporting, the article should state this (which it did not do).

Drum’s arguments that the journalist spoke to Mia at court, that she was a convicted drug smuggler, that she did not deny at the time that she was the one who had been “caught” with Jub Jub in prison, and that she “fitted the description given to Drum by three sources”, are so weak that no counter-arguments are required.

I therefore conclude that the article unnecessarily tarnished Mia’s reputation and dignity, and that the article has caused her serious and unnecessary harm – which necessitates a proper and prominent sanction.

Finding

Drum is in breach of the following sections of the Press Code:

  • 2.1: “The press shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”;
  • 2.3: “…Where a report is based on facts or is founded on opinion, allegation, rumour or supposition, it shall be presented in such manner as to indicate this clearly”;
  • 2.4: “…Where it has not been practicable to verify the accuracy of a report, this shall be stated in such report”;
  • 2.5: “A publication shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication… If a publication is unable to obtain such comment, this shall be stated in the report”; and
  • 4.7: “The press shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation…” (This clause also makes provision for four exceptions, none of which applies in this case).

Sanction

Drum is directed to:

  • apologise to Mia, without any reservations, for inaccurately stating as fact that she had sex with Jub Jub in prison, and for unnecessarily tarnishing her dignity and reputation in this process;
  • publish on its front page the following words in appropriately big type: “Apology to Mia – we inaccurately reported that she had sex with Jub Jub in prison (page 8/9)”;
  • publish on page 8 or 9 the apology, together with a summary of this finding;
  • publish the text at the top of that page, and include in its headline the words “apology” or “apologises”, and “Mia”;
  • provide this office with the text prior to publication.

If the article in dispute was or is published on Drum’s website, the same apology should be published on that medium, and the original story should be removed from the site.

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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