By BO Staff Writer
Last Friday the Press Ombud Johan Retief, acting on a complaint lodged with him by Black First Land First (BLF), ruled that News24 had committed certain serious offences in terms of the Code of Ethics and Conduct. In this regard, News24 had misrepresented that Professor Chris Malikane had called for the people to “take up arms”, at a Black In Dialogue (BID) event hosted by BLF, so as to resolve the issue of land reform in South Africa.
The indication is that News24 did not report the relevant news: “truthfully, accurately and fairly”; “in context”, “in a balanced manner” and with due care and consideration for the reputation of Malikane. In view of the ruling of the Press Ombud, BLF on Sunday called on the Democratic Alliance (DA) to apologize for its misrepresentation of what Professor Malikane had said at the event hosted by the movement. To this end the DA had joined the white owned media including News24 in spreading the lie that Malikane had called for an armed uprising.
Yesterday BLF wrote to the Independent Media Group Press Ombudsman, Jovial Rantao, to “make the necessary determination regarding misrepresentations published by newspapers belonging to its group – including directing that the offending party(s) retract the offensive texts and apologise unconditionally to Professor Malikane and the public. The full text of this letter is published hereunder.
Mr Jovial Rantao
Independent Media Group Ombudsman
21 May 2017
Email: [email protected]
Dear Mr Rantao
COMPLAINT: MISREPRESENTATION AND DISTORTION IN INDEPENDENT MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION(S) CONCERNING PROFESSOR CHRIS MALIKANE
After Professor Chris Malikane, addressed people on Radical Economic Transformation (RET) on 29 April 2017 at the Blacks in Dialogue (BID) event organised by Black First Land First (BLF), the white owned media including the newspapers published by Independent Media Group blatantly misrepresented what he had said at the event.
In this regard Black First Land First (BLF) has already lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief, regarding the comments of Professor Malikane that was misrepresented and distorted in an article published on 29 April 2017 in News24.
The relevant paragraph of the article “‘Prepare for the worst’, says Gigaba’s adviser” is the following:
“We need a two-thirds majority to change the Constitution. Otherwise, to achieve what we want to achieve, we need to go that route [take up arms]. Let’s try two-thirds. I don’t like war,” Malikane said.
The phrase in square brackets, namely “[take up arms]” were not said by Prof Malikane. They were included in the quote of Professor Malikane by the author of the above article. The News24 article accordingly conveyed the false message that Malikane said that in the event of not getting radical economic transformation via constitutional reform that the people would have to “take up arms”.
BLF had unequivocally indicated, inter alia, that the comment about taking up of arms cannot justifiably be associated with Prof Malikane and is a creation of the racist white media in service of white monopoly capital through lies. To this end the report of News24 was not truthful and fair in relation to Professor Malikane in that it had misrepresented and distorted the facts as indicated above.
BLF further pointed out that in contextualizing Malikane’s submissions, News24 had left out the fact that Prof Malikane was in fact responding to a question from the audience. Moreover, the Professor had not spoken about war in his initial input on RET at the event. BLF clarified that If the correct context was reported by News24, the distortion and misrepresentation would have been prevented.
BLF asked the Press Ombudsman to consider its complaint and to make the necessary finding – including the imposition of a penalty on News24 “that will serve as a very strong deterrent to it and others engaging in similar acts of misconduct in the future”.
On 30 April 2017, following Malikane’s talk at the BID the day before, the Democratic Alliance (DA) called on the Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, to “now act decisively and fire his economic advisor, Professor Chris Malikane, for suggesting that people “take up arms” to achieve “radical economic transformation” in South Africa”.
In this context the DA pointed out that “… Professor Chris Malikane crossed a “red line” in our constitutional democracy when he pivoted from warning about “civil war” to calling for “civil war” in South Africa.” It further indicated that it is in fact “complete madness” for Malikane to make that suggestion.
Subsequently, on 30 April 2017 IOL published the article “Fire defiant Chris Malikane immediately, says DA” which reported DAs misrepresentation of what Professor Malikane had said.
On 1 May 2017 BLF lodged an official complaint against News24 with the Press Ombudsman regarding its blatant lies about what Prof Malikane had said on 29 April 2017.
On 19 May 2017, the Press Ombudsman, made his ruling against News24. Read the Press Ombud’s ruling under the citation “Black First Land First, Njabulo Sithebe vs. News24” at www.presscouncil.org.za.
The Press Ombud, Johan Retief, found that News24 had contravened sections 1.1, 1.2 and 3.3 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct. To this end the said sections 1.1, 1.2 and 3.3 compelled the media to respectively “report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”; to present news “in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion … or misrepresentation …”; and to “exercise care and consideration in matters involving … reputation.”
The Press Ombud also found that News24 had committed a “Tier 3 offence” which is suggestive of it belonging to a category of offences that is the most serious.
Accordingly the sanction imposed by the Press Ombud included the following:
“News24 is directed to apologise, unreservedly, to Malikane in particular and to the public in general, for misleadingly and unfairly creating the impression that Malikane favoured the taking up of arms to solve the land reform issue”.
The Press Ombud then made certain strict provisions as to how the text of the apology required of News24 should be published. These provisions are most instructive and must serve as a guide for the apology that BLF seeks from the Independent Media Group publications.
It must also be mentioned that the Press Ombud Johan Retief has indicated that he has sent out his ruling to City Press, the Citizen and Sowetan and asked them to amend their online offending articles accordingly.
In the light of the ruling of the Press Ombud, BLF calls upon the Independent Media Group Press Ombud to make the necessary determination regarding misrepresentations published by newspapers belonging to its group – including directing that the offending party(s) retract the offensive texts and apologise unconditionally to Professor Malikane and the public.
To this end the above mentioned publication, by IOL on 30 April 2017, of the article titled, “Fire defiant Chris Malikane immediately, says DA” which reported DAs misrepresentation of what Professor Malikane had said, is instructive.
The Independent Media Group is accordingly called upon to identify all newspapers belonging to its group that have published the misrepresentations in question regarding Professor Malikane, and to this end take the necessary action.
The Independent Media Group Press Ombudsman is further called upon to impose an appropriate penalty, on the offending parties under its jurisdiction, that will serve as a strong deterrent to those committing similar offences in the future.
BLF has been directly affected by the aspects in the article(s) that constitute the subject matter of the complaint herein, as it was hosting Professor Malikane via the BID at the relevant time.
We await your prompt action and response.
Black First Land First (BLF): President
Black First Land First Email: [email protected]
Facebook: Black First Land First
Cell number: +27 82 678 3200