Sowetan gets tongue-lashing from ombud

2012-07-24 19:19
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Johannesburg - A Sowetan opinion piece which misquoted Blade Nzimande calling several political analysts "dogs" is irresponsible journalism on an "ugly scale", the deputy press ombudsman has found.

"This is the most unethical... comment that I can recall after having dealt with approximately 500 complaints in this office," Johan Retief wrote in a ruling issued on Tuesday.

The opinion piece, published on 11 June, was written by Prince Mashele, who teaches politics at the University of Pretoria.

He stated that SA Communist Party general secretary Nzimande, while speaking to vice-chancellors at the University of Johannesburg in June, had described political analysts as "dogs" and had called for violence against them.

This was in fact unfounded, said Retief.

"Let me repeat: I cannot recall ever having seen irresponsible journalism on such an ugly scale as this. It does not get any worse," he said.

While it was agreed Nzimande had said some political analysts were "like a pack of wild dogs", Retief said there was an important distinction.

"It is indeed one thing to say that someone acts [verb] like a dog, and quite another to state that s/he is a dog [noun]," Retief wrote in his ruling.

Sowetan editor Mpumelelo Mkhabela confirmed receiving the ruling Tuesday afternoon, but had not yet read it.

"I still need to do that to decide whether we will appeal that or not," Mkhabela said.

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