The Daily Sun became the second newspaper today to apologise to ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader Julius Malema on its front page for misquoting him.
“The fact that it turned out to be wrong is a matter of great regret to us,” said publisher Deon du Plessis, in an apology headlined, “SunSays: We’re sorry!”
“It was an honest mistake. But we take this first opportunity to apologise to President [Jacob] Zuma, Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League for any embarrassment that our story may have caused.”
Yesterday, the Daily Sun published a story quoting the league as saying Malema was misquoted, but did not offer an apology then.
The Star newspaper apologised yesterday, saying: “We quoted Malema as saying: ‘Since he got into power, comrade Zuma has been surrounded by bad advisers’.
“We have been able to verify that Malema... had not referred to President Jacob Zuma. The Star regrets the error and unreservedly apologises to Malema for whatever embarrassment it caused.”
Both The Star and the Daily Sun blamed African Eye News Service (AENS), who supplied the story, while AENS editor Sharon Hammond blamed the journalist, Matome Sebelemetja, saying he had initially said he had notes of Malema’s comments, but failed to produce the notes.
Sebelemetja, however, has said his original report did not contain the contentious quote. Hammond said it was later dictated to subeditors over the phone.
Sebelemetja told Sapa he was seeking legal advice.
Both the African National Congress and its youth league have harshly criticised the newspapers, demanding to know what went wrong and repeating their arguments that the Press Ombudsman could not offer strong enough punitive measures for such mistakes.
The ruling party has in the past called for a media appeals tribunal for print media.
The Star said yesterday that the ANC “must feel free to lodge a complaint with the Press Ombudsman, with whom we would cooperate”.
“As to what really happened, and how the misquote in the report came about, we ourselves would like to know,” The Star said.
If the report were to be true, it could have landed Malema into serious trouble with the ruling party.
Last May, Malema had to make a public apology to Zuma after criticising him in public.
An ANC disciplinary committee warned him that, should he be found guilty of contravening rule 25.5 (i) of the ANC constitution within the next two years, his membership would be summarily suspended.