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04 Aug 2008

Re the Sunday Sun
From Beeld, found on News24:

Magdel Fourie, Beeld

Johannesburg - The Sunday Sun newspaper has officially apologised for columnist Jon Qwelane' s controversial column about gay marriages, after the press ombudsman found that it did break the Press Code.

Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe launched an investigation after about 1 000 complaints were received by his office about the column, in which Qwelane likened marriages between people of the same gender to bestiality.

The column, " Call me names, but gay is NOT okay" , appeared in the Sunday Sun on July 20.

Thloloe said in his findings that the biggest part of the column was a call for a revision of the Constitution so that the rights recently awarded to gays and lesbians could be taken away.

He found that this did not constitute hate speech.

" In his column, Qwelane does not advocate hate, but merely gives his opinion about homosexuality. He does not ask for gays and lesbians to be harmed. It is robust language, not hate speech." 

Thloloe found that after he read the column " carefully" , that Qwelane did not equate homosexuality with bestiality.

He simply placed both on different rungs on a ladder, with bestiality lower than homosexuality and heterosexuality, by implication, higher.

" The underlying meaning is that gays and lesbians are of a lower race and the column is degrading towards them in this manner." 

Unlikely to lead to violence

Furthermore, he found it was " unlikely"  that the column would lead to violence against gays and lesbians.

" Qwelane was well within the law, but fell foul of the press code." 

He did this by referring to people' s sexual orientation in a derogatory manner and by implying that homosexual people are of a lower race than heterosexual people.

He ordered the newspaper to print an apology.

Publisher of the Sunday Sun, Deon du Plessis, said in his letter of apology in Sunday' s newspaper that he was " sorry that they sinned against the code" .

" I apologise for the commotion, which obviously hurt some people' s feelings. That is not our mission." 

He promised to do everything in his power to prevent it from happening again.

" I am very satisfied with the apology,"  said Thloloe to Beeld.

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