Ombudsman dismisses part of Zille complaint

2013-05-04 16:05
Helen Zille (Picture: AFP)

Helen Zille (Picture: AFP)

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Johannesburg - The Press Ombudsman has dismissed a complaint by DA leader Helen Zille relating to a story and excerpt by The New Age about Zille's withdrawal from a business briefing.

"This part of the complaint is dismissed in its entirety," said Press Ombudsman Johan Retief in his finding, issued on Saturday.

The story was headlined 'Zille's nose grows longer and longer' and was published together with an excerpt on 24 January.

The DA complained that the story and its headline falsely implied that Zille had lied by saying she was unaware that Telkom had sponsored a breakfast briefing, hosted by TNA and the SABC on 2 February.

The party further complained that the excerpt "deliberately and misleadingly" cut out a material section of what Zille had said, and the journalist did not afford it an opportunity to comment.

The story and excerpt contained background about Zille withdrawing from the TNA breakfast briefing after she had previously participated in a similar meeting in 2012. Both briefings were sponsored by Telkom and others.

Incorrect information - DA

The party said the article relied on "information" that Zille lied by saying she did not know that Telkom was to sponsor the meeting.

The DA said the rest of the story contained criticism against Zille based on incorrect information.
The article, written by Warren Mabona, said that Zille had double talked over her participation in the TNA's briefing.

The headline referred to Pinocchio, the storybook character whose nose grew longer the more he had lied.

The headline was accompanied by a picture of Zille's face, with a long extension of her nose.

The DA said this with the headline was incorrect as Zille never said she did not know about Telkom's sponsorship in February last year.

Stories published before new Press Code

Instead Zille had said "she was unaware of the nature of the sponsorships provided by Telkom" and others.

TNA argued that both the headline and contents of the story were constitutionally protected as fair comment. It said that a clause of the Press Code protected the rights of a publication to advocate its own views.

The newspaper outlined four requirements that needed to be met in order to establish if comment was fair - statements must be comment or opinion, they must be fair, they must be true, and they must be in the public interest.

TNA said the headline was "clearly an expression of opinion by TNA".

This was one of three findings made by the Ombudsman.

The complaints were made by Zille and related to three published front page stories in TNA.

The stories in dispute were published before the new Press Code came into effect on 1 February. The Ombudsman said he applied the previous code in his finding.
Read more on:    the new age  |  da  |  helen zille  |  media

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