Pretoria News must apologise

2014-11-01 20:04
Kgosientso Ramokgopa. Foto: THEANA BREUGEM

Kgosientso Ramokgopa. Foto: THEANA BREUGEM

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Johannesburg - The Press Ombudsman on Saturday directed the Pretoria News newspaper to apologise to City of Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa and the city.

This was after Ramokgopa complained about an article published in the newspaper on 6 September, headlined: "Jobs for pals council shock - but mayor says cadre deployment is just fine".

Ramokgopa complained that the story was malicious, politically motivated, harmful, racist, defamatory, and that the headline was misleading.

Press Ombudsman Johan Retief, in his ruling, said the story stated the City of Tshwane has been hit by a "jobs for cadres scandal", following the emergence of a confidential "list of comrades used for patronage by the ANC leadership".

This list was said to show 77 people in leadership positions in the African National Congress at branch level across the metro who were working at various divisions within the city administration.

According to the article, the names of these people are known to the newspaper.

Ramokgopa reportedly denied these allegations, Retief said.

Retief, in his ruling, said he wrote an email to the newspaper, as part of his considerations, where he stated the veracity of the story hinged on the credibility of this list.

This boiled down to the questions of who compiled it, and how it was implemented - if at all. The onus was on the newspaper to provide proof to this effect.

The newspaper replied that the list was compiled by disgruntled Tshwane ANC members, some of whom were employed by the city, in the build-up to the party's ninth regional conference.

Retief, in his ruling, said the story stated as fact there was a list of 77 cadres used for patronage by the ANC.

This left the impression that the list was an official ANC document, but now, by the publication's own admission, the list was not official because it was drawn up by disgruntled ANC members.

If the story stated that the list had been compiled by disgruntled ANC members, it would have been a "different kettle of fish".

"I therefore believe that the story caused the mayor and his administration some unnecessary harm, both to their dignity and reputation," Retief said in his ruling.

"However, I have no reason to believe that the journalist was malicious or racist. I also note that the newspaper did not respond to my question as [to] how the list had been implemented."

Additionally, not only did the story state the existence of an ANC list as fact, without any attribution, but the journalist also made no attempt to verify the information, as required by the Press Code.

If it was not possible to verify the data, the journalist should have stated that in her report.

"The story did quote the mayor as well as his spokesperson, and I am satisfied that his denial of the allegation was sufficient," Retief said.

The newspaper was directed to apologise to Ramokgopa and the city for falsely, without substantiation or justification, stating as fact - in both the story and headline - that the ANC had a confidential "list of comrades used for patronage by the ANC leadership".

The newspaper was also directed to apologise for causing unnecessary harm to their dignity and reputation.

The apology had to be published "prominently" on the same page in the newspaper that the original story ran, and on its website, where the story also appeared.

"The newspaper should furnish our office with the text prior to publication, and end it off with the following sentence: 'Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding'," Retief said.

The complaint that the story was malicious and racist was dismissed, as was the complaint about not giving the mayor a right of reply.

Read more on:    city of tshwane  |  press ombudsman  |  kgosientso ramokgopa  |  johan retief  |  pretoria

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