The Democratic Alliance was partly successful in a complaint to the Press Ombudsman about two stories and a headline published in The Star newspaper.
Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief found the newspaper's headline “Zille doesn't want a black DA - Coetzee” published on October 16 did not reflect the content of the story. However he dismissed a complaint by the DA about unnamed sources in the stories.
Retief said although the DA, in its complaint, emphasised a section of the Press Code that stated the press should refrain from using unnamed sources, it left out the part which said “unless there is no other way to handle a story”.
The DA complained that the allegations in the story were based entirely on anonymous sources who had been “colluding to create a false story”.
The first story, published in The Star, said: “DA spoilers stir up dirt about planner's exit for UK - (Ryan) Coetzee and Zille deny claims made anonymously that he left because of party strategy.”
The second, in Star Africa, said: “Zille blamed for lack of change - Six DA sources say strategist left as DA leader not committed to transformation.”
The Star, in its submission, said its editor was aware of the names of the sources and did not believe the sources colluded with one another.
The reporter spoke to at least eight regional, provincial and national DA leaders. It stated that these people all represented the DA in Parliament and/or in the DA caucuses.
Retief said the fact that the reporter informed his editor of the sources' identities was important.
“Moreover, I believe that the sources were sufficiently independent of each other as they came from different (regional, provincial and national) levels.”
Retief said The Star's headline however was in breach of the Press Code, which states: “Headlines... shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report” and “the press shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”.
“The Star is directed to correct the headline and to apologise to the DA for causing it unnecessary harm,” Retief said.
“As the offending headline was published on the front page, I am directing the newspaper to publish this text also on the front page.”
Either party could appeal the finding within seven days.
DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane welcomed the finding.
“What is critical to note is that article sought to portray the DA in a certain light... we are not a party of one race, but of many races.”
He said the allegations in The Star's story were nonsense and not consistent with the DA's values.
The Star's editor Makhudu Sefara was not immediately available for comment. - Sapa