ANCYL demands apology from Daily Sun

2011-03-31 11:21

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) demanded a front-page apology from the Daily Sun today after The Star newspaper apologised on its front page for misquoting its leader, Julius Malema.

The Star had now become a “lousy newspaper”, while the Daily Sun, which used the same story the following day, “has never been a reputable newspaper”, said spokesman Floyd Shivambu.

The Star published an apology today for reporting incorrectly that Malema had publicly criticised President Jacob Zuma, while the Daily Sun only carried a story quoting the youth league and headlined: “Malema ‘never spoke of Zuma’.”

Shivambu said this was unacceptable.

“Once again, the ANCYL demands a front-page retraction and unreserved apology from the Daily Sun for spreading lies, or we will take the necessary legal action, not through the Ombudsman, but through formal judicial processes, because the Press Ombudsman is useless.”

Daily Sun publisher Deon du Plessis said the paper did set the record straight in the story on its front page today, which said it had been shown video footage of Malema at the Limpopo conference at the weekend, where he defended the under-fire Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, but did not directly criticise Zuma.

“It’s clear that the agency [African Eye News Service] got it wrong and everybody is really sorry about it. We went ahead with the story in good faith.

“The important thing is, it came from African Eye News Service, which we checked with them. If we need to apologise, we will apologise, but it’s a bit too early to say what we will be doing in the paper tomorrow [Friday] morning,” said Du Plessis.

Shivambu said the journalist who was now being blamed for the incorrect report, Matome Sebelemetja, had written a letter to the African National Congress Youth League to distance himself from The Star article that appeared on Tuesday.

Sebelemetja told the ANCYL in the letter that his original story did not contain the contentious Malema quote saying, “Since he got into power, comrade Zuma has been surrounded by bad advisers.”

Sebelemetja said today that he was seeking legal advice, adding that all he could say now was: “There was a lot of distortion in the two articles that appeared in The Star and the Daily Sun.”

“I am seeking legal advice and will have more to say tomorrow [Friday].”

The Star, in its “Apology to Malema”, said: “It has come to our attention that our front-page report on Tuesday, headlined, ‘Malema blasts Zuma’, was not accurate. We quoted Malema as saying: ‘Since he got into power, comrade Zuma has been surrounded by bad advisers.’

“We have been able to verify that Malema ... had not referred to President Jacob Zuma.

“The Star regrets the error and unreservedly apologises to Malema for whatever embarrassment it caused.”

The English daily went on to explain that it had used a report filed by African Eye News Service, a fact that was not mentioned in the newspaper’s original report in its morning edition.

The story did carry the byline of the African Eye News Service reporter but did not credit the news agency.

“The report was based on a report filed by news agency African Eye News Service.”

African Eye News Service editor Sharon Hammond told Sapa that the original story filed by Sebelemetja did not contain the quote but that Sebelemetja later added it to the story in a dictate over the phone.

“We phoned him for clarity on the stuff he had written in the story, and as he was reading his notes, that quote came up. We asked him to repeat it and read it back to him. He said it was correct.”

Hammond said Sebelemetja had been freelancing for African Eye News Service for the past few months.

She said he told the African Eye News Service he would stand by his story, and never informed them that he had written a letter to the ANCYL distancing himself from the story.

Hammond said they had now repeatedly tried to get hold of Sebelemetja but with no success.

Neither did he respond to the African Eye News Service informing them that they could no longer use his services.

“It’s sad because part of what we do at the African Eye News Service is take raw talent and help them develop and train them to become journalists,” said Hammond.

The African Eye News Service editor said they had warned Sebelemetja that he would come under pressure and that he should refer all queries to African Eye News Service to respond on his behalf.

“It’s completely bizarre. Instead of turning to us for help, he turned to the ANCYL.”

Shivambu continued: “The Star also does not acknowledge that the journalist (Matome Sebelemetja) they claimed captured the story did not see the story they published, nor confirmed the quotes they say he captured from the ANC Youth League president’s address before they went ahead and published the story on their now lousy Newspaper.

“The fact that in spreading these lies, The Star newspaper also agitated for disciplinary action against ANC Youth League president and linked their story to the incoming 24th National Congress of the ANC Youth League, reveals that there is an agenda driven against the incumbent leadership of the ANC Youth League.”

If the report were to be true, it could have landed Malema into serious trouble with the ruling party.

Last May, Malema had to make a public apology to Zuma after criticising him in public.

An ANC disciplinary committee warned him that, should he be found guilty of contravening rule 25.5 (i) of the ANC constitution within the next two years, his membership would be summarily suspended.

This comes against the backdrop of the ANC mulling the establishment of a Media Appeals Tribunal for print media.

Shivambu said: “All these reports confirm our long-standing view that South African print media is neither respectable, nor professional. They rely on hearsay and rumours to insert their words in the mouths of leaders and report stories that suit their narrow, evil agendas.”

Part of the ANC’s reasons for a media tribunal included criticism that the Press Ombudsman system was not effective. Since then, the Ombudsman has undertaken to investigate how it could beef up its service to the public.

One of the criticisms against newspapers has been that they tend to hide away apologies in obscure corners on their inside pages, instead of giving the apology as much prominence as the incorrect report.

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