Paper challenges Ombudsman finding

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Johannesburg - The Daily Dispatch will challenge a finding by the Press Ombudsman against the newspaper and the process leading to the finding, editor Brendan Boyle said on Thursday.

Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief directed the Daily Dispatch newspaper to apologise to ANC Eastern Cape secretary Lubabalo Mabuyane for misrepresenting him in a story.

The African National Congress in the province complained about four stories and an editorial printed by the newspaper.

Boyle said Retief's finding was based on an informal and off-the-record meeting between the ANC and the Dispatch, which Retief chaired.

It was not a hearing as contemplated in the Press Council rules.

“The meeting was called in an effort to mediate a settlement and not to interrogate the detail of the reports cited by the ANC as evidence of its charge of unfair, unethical, unbalanced and biased reporting,” said Boyle.

“It is completely inappropriate to publish a finding based on a contested process and including conclusions which are not based on a detailed analysis of the content and context of the reports cited by the ANC.”

The party complained that the first story “Mannya must go, says ANC” from April 16, omitted or summarised Mabuyane's comment, which was a misrepresentation of what he had said.

Retief found this was a breach of the press code, which states:

“the press shall be obliged to report news... fairly” and “news shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by... misrepresentation.”

The ANC also complained that a June 20 story “E Cape ANC policy jamlock” had unverified, inaccurate, incorrect and unsupported allegations.

The headline was false and the newspaper had not verified its information with the ANC.

Retief reprimanded the Daily Dispatch for stating as fact that party leaders cut a programme short and for “thumb-sucking” a reason for something that did not happen.

This was a breach of the press code.

The newspaper was ordered to publish an apology on its front page, as the two stories were both published on the front page.

There was no finding on complaints made about another two stories and an editorial.

The ANC in the Eastern Cape on Thursday welcomed the findings.

“The ANC in the province jubilantly welcomes the findings of the deputy Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief, against the Daily Dispatch, following a successful complaint we lodged about unfair, bias(ed) reporting by the newspaper,” spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said in a statement.

“We strongly believe that the same correction must be published by all news outlets that published the story from the Dispatch.” - Sapa


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