Ombudsman dismisses complaints against Beeld

IOL  ss horror0718 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The man was accused of keeping his wife and five children captive in their Springs home. File photo: Chris Collingridge

Johannesburg - Press ombudsman Johan Retief on Saturday dismissed a complaint against the Beeld for using the word “monster” to describe a Springs man accused of mistreating his children.

“I note with appreciation that the reporter consistently referred to the 'so-called monster' (in the bodies of the stories),” Retief said in his finding.

“That, together with the fact that the newspaper has not identified the man, convinces me to give Beeld the benefit of the doubt as far as the stories are concerned.”

In articles published on June 24 and 25, Beeld referred to the man as the “so-called monster”, while the headline it referred to him as a “monster”.

The accused faces charges of child molestation, attempted murder and assault with intent to seriously injure his children in the Springs Magistrate's Court.

The complainant argued that the word “monster” was insulting and disrespectful, and that by using it, Beeld had already found him guilty of the crimes. He further submitted that the word was inappropriate, whether the man was found guilty or not.

Retief disagreed.

“... I do not agree with (the complainant) that one should not call a fellow human being a monster irrespective of what he did. If the allegations are found to be true, the description would be justified,” he said.

However, Retief did not think the publication had the right to use “monster” in its headline.

“Not only has the man's guilt not been proven yet, but the headline also did not correctly reflect the content of the stories (as required by the press code).

“The simple use of inverted commas, as was indeed done in one instance, would have solved this problem,” he said.

The newspaper was reprimanded for calling the man a monster in its headline, and directed to publish the ombudsman's finding in its newspaper, ending with the words: “visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding”. - Sapa


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