Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe will receive an honorary doctorate at the 2011 Rhodes University Graduation. Photo: Independent Newspapers
Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe will receive an honorary doctorate at the 2011 Rhodes University Graduation. Photo: Independent Newspapers

Ombudsman ‘useless and toothless’: ANCYL

By Natasha Marrian Time of article published Apr 5, 2011

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The ANCYL called Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe “useless and toothless” on Tuesday, accusing him of undermining democracy after he refused a request to investigate how two newspapers misquoted its president Julius Malema.

In an attack on Thloloe, ANC Youth League (ANCYL) spokesperson Floyd Shivambu offered him “best wishes” in his continued effort to “erode the little respect” he had from other people.

“It is unfortunate though that some amongst us of the previously oppressed people have been co-opted into agendas that undermine the democracy and freedoms our forefathers fought for with their lives,” Shivambu said.

Thloloe would not be drawn into the fray. “I won't stoop to that level,” he said.

“They talk about democracy and freedom: they don't know anything about that. Press freedom is a cornerstone of democracy,” he said.

Shivambu said the self-regulation of the media in South Africa was a threat to democracy and the dignity of many people and should be stopped as soon as possible.

Last week, The Star and Daily Sun newspapers quoted Malema as criticising President Jacob Zuma - a move that could have landed Malema in hot water with the ruling party - but made front page apologies when it became clear that he had been misquoted.

While the reporter, who has since been dismissed, claimed the offending quote was not in his original story, the news agency he worked for, African Eye News Service (AENS) claimed he dictated it later by telephone.

On Monday, Thloloe denied a request by Shivambu to “consider and investigate” who was responsible for inserting the incorrect quotes into the offending stories.

“The Star and the Daily Sun have conceded that they were in breach of the 1/8Press code of conduct 3/8 and have apologised. There is no need to go over that ground again,” Thloloe said at the time.

“It is the newspaper as a whole that has to take the blame. Our findings are not against the individual reporter, news editor, sub-editor, revise sub-editor or the editor on duty - all the people through whose hands a story has to pass before it is printed,” he said.

He said Shivambu's request suggested he did not understand how the Press ombudsman system worked.

The ombudsman's mandate included cautioning or reprimanding a publication, and directing a publication to publish a correction, retraction, explanation, apology, the findings of the ombudsman, or a complainant's reply.

Thloloe said it would be up to the newspapers and AENS to investigate where things went wrong.

On Tuesday, Shivambu described Thloloe's refusal to investigate as “predictable”.

“The ANCYL is not at all shocked by the response of the Press ombudsman, because we are fully aware that lodging a complaint with the Press ombudsman is tantamount to seeking ‘cat-justice’,” he said.

Shivambu said the ANCYL would “explore all available avenues, including court action” to find out who inserted the incorrect quote.

“Apologies cannot be used to hide criminal actions of certain editors and sub-editors who concoct quotations and attribute them to the leadership of the ANCYL,” he said.

“Our call for an urgent establishment of the Media Appeals Tribunal has now gained more weight and should be placed on the agenda of Parliament.”

The ANC is investigating the establishment of a Media Appeals Tribunal for print media, partly over criticism that the Press ombudsman system was not effective.

The Ombudsman's office is, in turn, investigating how it can provide a more effective service to the public.

Commenting in Thloloe's defence on Tuesday, the Press Council of SA described the ANCYL's attack as “gratuitous” and said it was clearly aimed at promoting a pro-Media Appeals Tribunal faction within the ANC.

In a statement, Council chairman Raymond Louw said Shivambu had confirmed this when he said the call for the establishment of a Tribunal should be placed on Parliament's agenda.

Louw said the Press Council was “disgusted” at the “unjust attack” and expressed its support for Thloloe.

“This latest disparagement of the Press ombudsman and the system is not the first time the ANCYL has told blatant untruths to discredit the press and its press self-regulatory process which is largely the same as those used in the majority of the world's democracies,” he said.

It was untrue that the ombudsman was appointed by media houses and was therefore representing their interests.

“He is appointed by an appointments panel headed by a judge appointed by the chief justice and composed of a public and a press representative,” said Louw.

“A survey of the ombudsman's rulings shows that more than 60

percent favour complainants - hardly the conduct of a media house representative.”

Shivambu is being sued by an Independent Newspaper journalist for hate speech after allegedly calling her “stupid” and a “white b***h”.

ANCYL spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy has described the reporter, Carien Du Plessis, as a liar with “tendencies”, but did not detail what these tendencies might be. -

Sapa

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