Citizen journalist axed after tweets

2012-09-27 18:59

Cape Town - The Citizen newspaper on Thursday dismissed a staff member for defamatory comments made on Twitter in the aftermath of the furore over the newspaper's use of a "cloned" photograph of a bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.

In a statement, the newspaper said although it is not its policy to comment on internal disciplinary matters, it confirmed that a staff member was dismissed on Thursday.

The Mail&Guardian (M&G) reported that the staff member was photographer Johann "Slang" Hattingh, who had drawn attention to the fact that the newspaper had doctored the image on its front page.

The paper had come under fire after it emerged that the bodies of two South Africans killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, had been "cloned" (digitally removed) from a picture sourced from the Agence France-Presse, the M&G said.

According to the M&G, Hattingh had tweeted about the incident shortly after the paper was published and a furious discussion about the ethics of the Citizen's actions broke out over social media.

But the Citizen said that Hattingh's dismissal wasn't related to the furore surrounding the photograph.

"In the matter of the cloned photograph published on 19 September, the company has dealt individually with all people who had a role in the serious error.

"The editor has publicly apologised and is satisfied that such a mistake will not recur."

It said that Hattingh was found guilty of two charges, after a disciplinary hearing under an independent, external chairperson.

He was found to have "brought the company name into disrepute by making defamatory comments on Twitter" and "irretrievably damaging the trust relationship between employer and employee"

"An employer, company or institution has a responsibility to take action when it and its employees are defamed and false information about them is spread."

Hattingh told the M&G he had argued that it was not him, but the senior editorial staff who had failed to check the page before it went to print, that had brought the company into disrepute.

Of his dismissal, he said "I'm quite disappointed with the outcome but obviously I'll take it up further with the CCMA."

  • mknnko003 - 2012-09-27 19:34

    140 Characters won`t pay the bills, people need to understand that these social networks not private but public.

      zander.venter.14 - 2012-09-27 20:19

      Are you defending a paper whom openly commits acts like these, and when joe somebody has something to say for it, they will lose their job, as well as make public statements about his name so he wont be able to find another job.

      kobie.nel1 - 2012-09-27 20:36

      Interesting that the paper publish a falsified photo and admit it, but the guy who point it out spread "false" information. """"An employer, company or institution has a responsibility to take action when it and its employees are defamed and false information about them is spread.""""

      nemimabotja - 2012-09-27 22:40

      It means they all knew about it, but not allowed to speak.

      scebberish.umfazi - 2012-09-28 07:34

      "the trust relationship between employer and employee" There is no such thing! (expect maybe in the cases of Nepotism)

      junebugg.kinte - 2012-09-28 10:34

      Citizen Newspaper should be boycotted, until they give his job back !!!!! He is fired for reporting fraud? they are running that company like a bunch of dictators...

      Michael - 2012-09-28 10:50

      Way to miss the point Mokoena, he points out photo doctoring and gets fired for it. I assume you think he should rather have shut up?

      sanda.mnyazi - 2012-09-28 14:15

      These media houses smh that is why they must be heavily regulated, they manipulate everything to suit their agenda

  • Michael Kleber - 2012-09-27 20:29

    poor show citizen this is the same as what the govt wants to do by gagging the media , many of your editorials are advocating freedom of speech and whistle blowing etc. very disappointed will consider if i will stay a loyal reader , hypocrites !

      DraganTrenk - 2012-09-28 08:37

      I will STOP buying The Citizen,after 20 years.They are become,anyway,worst than my local newspaper,having 60% of pages advertizing.Take you less than 5 minutes to finish reading The Citizen.Even Sun Daily has more to read.

  • Savethe White O - 2012-09-27 20:43

    I tweeted and my wings where clipped.

  • Tebogo Thape - 2012-09-27 20:44

    social media can either make you or break you. its these kinds of incidents that shows the power of social media.

  • erik.prinsloo.1 - 2012-09-27 20:51

    Tweet-tweet and of he goes!

  • george.pito - 2012-09-27 20:54

    So the paper openly amdmits this and then fire somebody for tweeting. The same paper probably fights the public information bill.I cannot think of anything worse than manipulating a picture it is worse than giving a biased opinion. The person fired should actually been propmoted by the paper.

      squeegee.pilot - 2012-09-27 20:59

      being 'propmoted' might be painful...

      emilyjane.elson - 2012-09-27 23:02

      Ha ha Squeegee!

  • chris.rensburg - 2012-09-27 21:34

    This is what you call corporate power and dictatorship.Nothing about freedom of speech!! or democracy.Moneypower!!!

      DraganTrenk - 2012-09-28 08:31

      You are spot on about corporates.They are bigger treat to Democracy and Human Rights,than political clowns.

  • lotus.river.5 - 2012-09-28 01:44

    Same bull s?+*?: as health cre professionals witnessing horrid conditions in hospitals then being disciplined for talking to the media abput it,even though nothing gets doneafter monhs of raising the issues with management. We live in a very sick world. The companies only do something when the public knows, yet you get punished for publicizing info that is definitely in public interest.

  • juannepierre - 2012-09-28 05:52

    What about the link between a news source and it's readers...? The citizen has brought itself into disrepute

  • eyesears.handsfeet - 2012-09-28 08:06

    How convenient for the M&G to blame someone else (internal) for their mistakes. Isn’t it just typical? People in general are so tired of all the lies and yet government and the media insist in feeding it to the local public. One can only wonder about the motive for all the deceit and why.

  • davidrobertlewis - 2012-09-28 09:53

    Weird, if you have problematic staff at the Citizen, you get a nice article on News24, but if the situation is reversed and the problem is at Media24, you get a virtual news blackout.

  • shaynepics - 2012-09-28 12:34

    What The Citizen has done is DISGUSTING. How can the Editor say that there was not a strong enough case to dismiss anyone else? WTF? They digital altered a picture to remove bodies thereby changing the TRUTH, which is ethically wrong. If the people who did the alterations and the responsible for signing off the page do not know this, not only should they be fired, they should not be a journalist in the first place. I stand behind Johann 100% Shayne Robinson

  • jacqui.daanevanrensburg - 2012-09-28 15:09

    Strange how no one seem to be able to tell the truth. Of course the Citizen sacked their journalist for spilling the beans, but haven't got the guts to say so. Shame.

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