Ombudsman defers DA complaint
Johannesburg - The press ombudsman distanced himself on Thursday from a tiff between DA leader Helen Zille and Independent Newspapers over an ANC centenary celebration feature.
"Our office has no mandate to act," deputy press ombudsman Johan Retief told Zille in a response to an official complaint she laid against the media group.
Zille laid the complaint on Wednesday after the Democratic Alliance received a letter from Independent Newspapers inviting it to advertise in a special feature to be published in celebration of the ANC's centenary.
The feature was to run in The Star, Pretoria News, Cape Argus, Daily News, Diamond Fields Advertiser, and Isolezwe on January 13.
"The letter, written on an Independent Newspapers letterhead alongside an ANC logo, is a glowing endorsement of the ANC," Zille said at the time.
Commercial, not editorial
In the press ombudsman's response to Zille's complaint, Retief said the Ombudsman only dealt with editorial copy, not advertisements.
"Prior to publication, the decision to publish is in the editor's hands, as it always should be," he said in his response which was forwarded to the media.
Retief nevertheless thanked Zille for "the trust that you have once again placed in our office".
He said she could apply for leave to appeal this decision within the next seven days.
On Wednesday, Independent News and Media SA editorial director Moegsien Williams said it was "wrong, misleading and mischievous for anyone to suggest that an advertising feature has, can or will influence our editorial content".
Advertising features were handled by the commercial section of Independent Newspapers, he said.