Case: Sonke Gender Justice v City Press and News24
Complaints mechanism: Press Ombudsman
The panel of adjudicators: Johan Retief (Press Ombudsman), Peter Mann (public representative), and Joe Thloloe (media representative)
Date of finding: 10 December 2018
Complaint overview: On 4 December 2018, the Press Ombudsman heard a complaint from Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) regarding “wrong, untruthful and distorted information” contained in an article published by the City Press and News24 on 9 September 2018 titled There is a new man. Sonke, assisted by Power Singh Inc., detailed in its complaint that the:
- the article was based on false information;
- the newspaper did not give it a right of reply and did not properly verify its information;
- the words “TALK TO US” at the end of the article, using its name as a link, perpetuated the false and misleading association between itself and sexual predators;
- the correction was not clearly noted in the online edition of the article; and
- the text was not clearly presented as a comment in the online edition of the story.
In its finding, the panel of adjudicators found that the City Press and News24 had committed Tier 2 (serious breaches) of the Press Code. By way of sanctions, the panel of adjudicators provided that:
“City Press is directed to apologise to Sonke for the:
- a false and unfair statement that that “for nearly a decade there was no sanction and Mr X continued to manage the programme”, creating the impression that it has ignored for nearly a decade allegations about sexual harassment in its midst; and
- huge harm this reportage has unnecessarily caused to its dignity and reputation.
The newspaper is also reprimanded for:
- initially reported that there were eight complainants, and not four; and
- incorrectly indicating that Johnson [the author of the article] was in Sonke’s employ from 2013 to 2016.
The newspaper is directed to:
- publish the apology, together with a summary of this finding (including the reprimands), on page 5, with a headline containing the words “apology” or “apologises”, and “Sonke (Gender Justice)”;
- afford Sonke the opportunity of a right of reply of not more than 600 words, which is to be published together with the apology; and
- circulate these texts among its social media platforms where the story was made available by means of hyperlinks.
The texts should:
- be published at the earliest opportunity after the time for an application for leave to appeal has lapsed or, in the event of such an application, after that ruling;
- refer to the complaint that was lodged with this office;
- end with the sentence, “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding”; and
- be prepared by the publication and be approved by the panel.”
The finding of the panel of adjudicators can be found here.