The Deputy Press Ombudsman, Dr Johan Retief, has ruled that the Sowetan newspaper must apologise to IFP President Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, following the publication of a story aimed at damaging the IFP President’s credibility and their failure to publish Buthelezi’s response to harmful allegations.
The Sowetan has been directed to publish a front page apology to Buthelezi.
The IFP, on behalf of its leader, lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman following a story on its front page, headlined “Zanele feeds Shenge‘s son – Magwaza-Msibi delivers food to destitute Sibani Buthelezi”.
Before publishing this sensationalist piece, the Sowetan sought Buthelezi’s comment, but then chose not to publish it. They merely published the comment of an IFP official who accurately pointed out, “This is not a party matter, so the party cannot comment”. The Sowetan argued before the Press Ombudsman that this comment was materially the same as that given by Buthelezi himself.
But Buthelezi had said: “I am not prepared to comment on this matter, as it will give credence to this type of gutter journalism. God knows the truth about this matter; my conscience is clear. It is clear that KaMagwaza-Msibi and her supporters are now engaged in a campaign of dirty politics, aimed at defaming me by any means possible. I am not prepared to degrade myself by stooping to their level.”
Deputy Press Ombudsman Dr Johan Retief ruled that the Sowetan was obliged to publish Prince Buthelezi’s comment, as it materially added to the published comment by denying allegations made in the article and pointing out the NFP’s defamation campaign.
The newspaper’s refusal to publish Buthelezi’s comment is in breach of Article 1.5 of the Press Code that states: “A publication should seek the views of the subject of serious critical reportage in advance of publication.” The intention is to see these views published.
According to Retief, the omission of Buthelezi’s denial caused him unnecessary harm.
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