Ombud dismisses Mbete's M&G complaint

2013-11-29 17:30
Baleka Mbete (Picture: Sapa)

Baleka Mbete (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The Press Ombudsman has dismissed a complaint by ANC chair Baleka Mbete over a recent Mail & Guardian headline about her.

However, the newspaper was ordered to apologise to Mbete about the content of another article.

The newspaper had to apologise for claiming Mbete misused state funds for her own benefit and for neglecting to state she was found not guilty after having received an illegal driver's licence, Ombudsman Johan Retief said in his ruling on Friday.

It also needed to apologise for casting doubt on Mbete's integrity and dignity without enough justification to do so.

"I cannot determine if the reporter deliberately caused Mbete unnecessary harm by publishing unfair comments about her without justification to do so, causing her huge unnecessary harm. What I can say, though, is that the article surely resulted in just that," he said.

Mbete and the ANC complained about the article headlined "Mbete looks out for number one - Behind the Gold Fields pickle is a powerful politician who favours progress over principle", on 13 September.

Mbete complained that the story intended to cast aspersions on her integrity and her standing in society.

Retief found that the newspaper had breached certain sections of the Press Code.

He dismissed some of Mbete's complaints and her arguments.

The Mail & Guardian was directed to publish an apology. Retief said the newspaper could appeal the ruling within seven working days.

In the second complaint, the ANC and Mbete complained about the headline of a story published on 6 September.

‘Deliberately misleading’

Mbete and the ANC claimed that the headline "Gold Fields bribed Mbete -US investigators have concluded that a R25 million share handout to Baleka Mbete constituted corruption by Gold Fields, which then buried the findings" was deliberately misleading and defamatory and did not reflect the story.

Mbete did not complain about the actual content but said the headline had caused her, her family, and the ANC "unwarranted harm".

The Mail & Guardian argued that Mbete omitted to state that the headline had been presented as reported speech by the use of quotations marks, signifying an allegation or opinion.

It also argued that the headline was accompanied by a sub header that both attributed the reported speech to an "identified accused", and gave context to the accusation.

In his finding on the headline, Retief found that the newspaper correctly stated "if the report itself was justified, which is common cause as it is not complained about, and the headline reasonably reflected it, the complaint must fail".

He, therefore, dismissed Mbete's complaint.

Read more on:    anc  |  mail & guardian  |  baleka mbete  |  johannesburg  |  media

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