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Cape Town - The Cape Times newspaper has to apologise to Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle over a story on the Chapman's Peak Drive toll plaza.
In a ruling issued on Tuesday, deputy press ombudsman Johan Retief said the newspaper was guilty of unbalanced reporting by omission.
“The several omissions of important matters that would have more accurately reflected the minister's position are in breach of Art. 1.1 and 1.2 of the Press Code.”
Carlisle took issue with inaccuracies in three stories published in the Cape Times on the Chapman's peak toll saga. He felt the newspaper failed to clarify facts or get sufficient comment from him.
The matter was heard before a three-person panel including Retief.
The panel found omissions such as that free day-passes for people using picnic and hiking sites would be scrapped once the toll plaza was built, and that the projected cost of the project was R350 million, were material.
“The panel said that, when viewed collectively, these omissions represented an unfair and unbalanced slant to the story and expressed the sincere hope that this was an isolated occurrence.”
The panel reprimanded the newspaper for inaccurately reporting that the repair cost, as an alternative to the building project, would be between R25 million and R30 million, for inaccurately stating that no traffic figures were released, and for inadequately trying to get comment from the ministry.
However, the panel also found the toll gate saga might correctly be described as somewhat of a public relations disaster.
“There can be no doubt that the issue is confusing and in fairness it must be difficult for the public, and for journalists to report on it accurately.”
Despite this journalists had to do so.
“We also noted that the Cape Times gave Carlisle many other opportunities to reflect on the matter and we commend the paper for getting correct a range of stories on this confusing matter.”
Nine parts of the complaint were dismissed, and there was no finding on one part of the complaint, as this was withdrawn at the hearing.
The Cape Times was directed to print an apology to Carlisle, with a reference to the apology on the front page. - Sapa