Ombudsman clears City Press

2010-11-03 14:55

The press ombudsman has retracted his finding that City Press breached the press code for allegedly failing to give the subject of a story the right of reply.

The Radical Honesty White Refugee (RH) group had laid three complaints against the newspaper for a story related to the sentencing of the Reitz Four titled, “Right-wing group tries to scupper Reitz trial”.

At the time City Press reported that the RH, in its founding affidavit, attacked the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and called the trial against the Reitz Four “a grave injustice”.

Deputy press ombudsman Johan Retief dismissed two of the complaints but initially upheld the complaint by RH representative Lara Johnstone that she was not approached for comment relating to its legal bid to be added as a friend of the court.

“The newspaper made no attempt to ask Johnstone, the subject of the story, for comment. This is in breach of Art. 1.5 of the press code that states: “A publication should usually seek the views of serious critical reportage in advance of publication…” Retief found initially.

However, after queries by City Press yesterday Retief acknowledged that he had erred in his original finding and dismissed the complaint as well.

“The newspaper reported on a court case and was under no obligation to ask Johnstone for comment. This is standard journalistic practice,” said Retief.

He also apologised for the error.

In its initial submission to the ombudsman City Press had argued that Johnstone’s “abortive attempt at intervention in the Reitz matter was in itself a public event, on which City Press merely reported”.

Johnstone had also complained about the phrase “right-wing group” and the word “scupper” in the headline.

However, the ombudsman found that the headline “is not misrepresentative of the story and it also does not alter the context of the article in any way”.

“This part of the complaint is dismissed,” said Retief.

City Press news editor Trevor Neethling said the newspaper welcomed the retraction.

“At City Press we strive to maintain the highest editorial standards which adhering to the press council’s press code. We are pleased that the erroneous ruling has been corrected and we want to assure our readers that we will continue to produce excellent journalism.”

»?Visit the Press Council website for the full finding

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