Mkhwebane welcomes Press Ombudsman ruling in her favour in Daily Maverick complaint

2020-01-08 14:32
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (Jan Gerber/News24)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane (Jan Gerber/News24)

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has welcomed a ruling in her favour by the Press Ombudsman of South Africa.

Mkhwebane's spokesperson Oupa Segalwe had complained to Press Ombudsman Pippa Green about an article in the Daily Maverick written by Stephen Grootes, under the headline "Busisiwe Mkhwebane: How to ruin a Chapter 9 institution in 28 months", which was published on March 4, 2019.

Segalwe complained that Daily Maverick hadn't published his right of reply, but the online publication responded that his article didn't comply with their editorial standards for a right of reply and that requests to adjust it had been ignored. Segalwe eventually published it on the Public Protector's website.

Daily Maverick editor Branko Brkic told Green that Segalwe had "attacked a journalist" rather than dealing with the subject, and that he had asked him "to play the ball and not the man", Green notes in her report.

In her finding, Green said that commentary was protected as long as "it has taken fair account of all material facts that are either true or reasonably true", but that Segalwe had argued this had not happened in this case.

In her ruling, Green said her finding was not on whether Grootes' views were true or not, but whether Segalwe had a right to reply.

"In terms of the Press Code, clause 1.8, that enjoins the media to 'seek, if practicable, the views of the subject of critical reportage', Mr Segalwe should be allowed an opportunity to put facts before readers that he feels have been overlooked or misrepresented," she found.

Right to appeal

"I find that the Daily Maverick is in transgression of this clause."

She ruled that Segalwe must be allowed a right of reply on behalf of the Office of the Public Protector.

"The reply must focus on the matter at hand, and must be approved by the Ombudsman to ensure it complies with ethical standards and the Press Code. The Press Council logo and a link to this finding should also be published with the reply."

Daily Maverick has the right to appeal.

The ruling is dated December 11, 2019. A statement released on Wednesday morning states the Public Protector received the ruling on Tuesday.

"On learning of the ruling, Adv. Mkhwebane said the media was one of her office’s key stakeholders, which helps the office live up to the constitutional injunction of being accessible to all persons and communities," reads the statement.

"She pointed out that most of the complaints of wrongdoing in state affairs are lodged on the basis of news reports. In addition, most of her own-initiative investigations such as the VBS Mutual Bank and the Nandoni-Nsami Water Pipeline matters were occasioned by revelations in the media."

According to the statement, Mkhwebane said: "We should be working together in a partnership that ensures good governance in state affairs. This does not mean that I or my office should be insulated from media scrutiny. However, any scrutiny of myself and the office should be independent, truthful, fair and steer clear of causing unnecessary harm."

Read more on:    public protector  |  daily maverick  |  oupa segalwe  |  busisiwe mkhwebane  |  media

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