More press ombudsman complaints

By Drum Digital
03 March 2015

Complaints about stories in the press have jumped in the past few years, national press ombudsman Johan Retief said on Tuesday.

His office received 529 complaints in 2013, compared to 212 in 2010, with numbers expected to keep increasing.

He said this could be attributed to the increased reporting of his formal findings in the press, leading to greater awareness of what his office did.

On average, almost half the complaints in the past four years were by individuals. Just under 30 percent were from politicians and 23 percent from businesses.

"Two-thirds of complaints are either fully or partially upheld, which means that the allegation that I am biased towards the press is not based on facts but on myth," he told the Cape Town Press Club.

His office had been criticised for being too slow in making a finding.

"In 2010, it took us on average 136 days to handle the complaint. Last year, it was 51 days. Now with the average time, we have 20 days from start to finish."

Retief said the most common mistake the press made was not asking for comment, or asking for it too late, leading to inaccurate and unfair reporting.

Other trends that got media houses into trouble were using single anonymous sources, publishing pictures of human bodies, and stating allegations as fact in headlines.

Retief said he was optimistic about the state of the press, noting an increased concern for ethical journalism in the five years he had been inoffice.


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