Robert Marawa vs Sunday Sun

Finding Complaint 4356 

Date of Article: 24/3/2019

Headline: “Marawa is my Baby Daddy – Presenter denies being the Father.”

Online:

Page: 1

Author: Mduduzi Nonyane

Particulars

This ruling is based on a complaint filed on behalf of Mr Robert Marawa by his legal representatives, Sara Hoffman and Emma Sadleir about a story published in the Sunday Sun. a response from Sunday Sun deputy editor, Johan Vos, and interviews with Ms Hoffman, Mr Marawa, Mr Vos, and the reporter, Mr Nonyane.  I also consulted case studies in South Africa, the United States, and the European Union on the issue of privacy and public figures.

Complaint

Mr Marawa, through his lawyers, complains that the story published in the Sunday Sun under the headline: “MARAWA IS MY BABY DADDY – PRESENTER DENIES BEING THE FATHER” transgressed the Press Code in several ways.  These include:

  • The media shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.
  • News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation.”
  • Only what may be reasonably true having regard to the sources may be presented as fact…

1.7 Where there is reason to doubt the accuracy of a report or a source and it is practicable to verify…it shall be verified. Where it has not been practicable…this shall be stated.

1.8 The media shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication…Reasonable time should be afforded the subject for a response

3.1 The media shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals. The right to privacy may be overridden by the public interest.

3.2 In the protection of privacy, dignity and reputation. Special weight must be afforded to…children

3.3 The media shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation.

10.1 Headlines and captions…shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report

10.2 Posters shall not mislead the public.

  1. The text

1.1 The story was headlined on page 1 and 2 under a banner head on page 1: “MARAWA IS MY BABY DADDY!” and a strap that says: “Presenter denies being the father.”

The actual story on page 2 is headlined: ‘SHE WAS NEVER MY GIRLFRIEND’ with a strap: ‘I never saw proof of pregnancy’.

1.2 The intro to the story states: “He’s Mzansi’s favourite sportscaster. But radio and TV personality Robert Marawa has a secret – and is going out of his way to keep it under wraps!”

1.3 The next paragraph attributes this statement: “This is according to his alleged baby mama, showbiz vixen Nguvitjita Mberirua. The Namibian hottie claims the football host has been playing hide and seek after allegedly impregnating her

In the same paragraph it states Marawa’s “strong” denial.

1.4 It then quotes him as saying: “I have, since January 2019, been the victim of a relentless campaign of harassment and defamation by Ms Mberirua in which she has presented herself at various times and to multiple people – both known and unknown to me, as my wife (untrue), my fiancée (untrue), my girlfriend (untrue), the mother of my unborn twins and subsequently the mother of my unborn child, as well as the subject of an alleged assault by an associate of mine (untrue).”

1.5 He goes on to say she has refused to provide proof of pregnancy or do an in-utero paternity test.

1.6 However, Mberirua “claimed Robert had vanished into thin air.”

1.7 The article then sketches their “relationship”. It quotes Mberirua as saying that Marawa had approached her and asked if she had wanted him to be her mentor.

She claimed “things got rosy between them” and “Robert took her to various birthday parties with his friends” Soon after that they started “dating”.

1.8 She claimed she realized she was “pregnant after a medical examination in early January”, and since Marawa was the only man “I was seeing, I told him I was pregnant with his child.

1.9 She then claimed he refused to take her calls and blocked her number. “He has refused to take responsibility for our unborn child. He asked for a paternity test but never showed up when we were supposed to do it.

1.10 She told the newspaper she was “four months pregnant” and had to deal with the medical expenses alone.”

  1. The arguments

Robert Marawa

2.1 Mr Marawa first filed a complaint through his attorneys, Ms Sarah Hoffman and Ms Emma Sadleir. Later, during the adjudication process, I spoke to him at some length.

2.2 His attorneys argued that the article makes a number of “serious, defamatory, unsubstantiated and untrue allegations” about Mr Marawa.

These include that :

  • he has a secret – and is going out of his way to keep it under wraps
  • he approached Ms Mberirua asking to be her “mentor”;
  • he had “vanished into thin air”,
  • he had refused to “take responsibility” for the “unborn child”;
  • he had “asked for a paternity test but never showed up” for it; and
  • Ms Mberirua who was “four months pregnant” had been left to “deal with medical expenses alone”.

2.3 This article has also been republished on two other websites.

2.4 His attorneys argue there is no truth to any of the allegations and that the reporter did not take sufficient care to establish this:

  • Mr Marawa has not been “furnished with any proof whatsoever” of either the existence of the pregnancy nor that he is the father of the unborn child.
  • He did not approach Ms Mberirua and ask to be her mentor.
  • He never refused to take responsibility for the unborn child but has asked her repeatedly for proof of the pregnancy and for an in-utero paternity test for which he offered to pay.
  • He did not “vanish into thin air” because he did not want to take responsibility for the alleged pregnancy. In fact, he cut off communication with her “as he had become a victim of a continued and relentless campaign of defamation and harassment by her, both online and in person.” Her “increasingly erratic behavior” included trying to gain unlawful access to his residence, showing up at his workplace while he was on air to “verbally attack him”; “endless phone calls”; posing as his wife in public and online; and attempt to contact his family and friends “and spreading fictitious stories about him and her”.

2.5 So great was the “emotional, physical and reputational harm” caused by her behavior that Mr Marawa had obtained an interdict against her. Notwithstanding this, she had continued her “campaign of harassment”, and a subsequent warrant for arrest was issued by the same court.

2.6 Mr Marawa’s legal representatives had sent her six letters and held an in-person meeting with her and despite this “she has failed/refused to furnish Marawa with any proof of her alleged pregnancy and/or any proof that Marawa is the father of her unborn child.

The legal representatives also asked her to submit to a pregnancy test “at any Lancet or Ampath laboratory at Mr Marawa’s expense. “She outright refused to comply with this request.”

2.7 It is also not true that he has refused to contribute to medical expenses but cannot do so for a child “which may not even exist”.

2.8 The attorneys raised the following points:

Verification: The allegations made by Ms Mberirua are “not verified or supported by any additional sources or evidence”; she is the single and only source. “A mere cursory look at Ms Mberirua’s erratic social media posts regarding Mr Marawa indicates her unreliability as a source.”

Right of reply: Mr Marawa’s legal representatives argue he was given insufficient right of reply. The journalist, Mr Mduduzi Nonyane contacted Mr Marawa shortly after 12.30 on the Saturday 23rd March, 2019 “mere hours before the article went to print.” This could not be considered a “reasonable” time to furnish a response in terms of the Press Code. It was just enough time for Mr Marawa to have his legal representatives draft a brief response. Moreover, Mr Marawa was not granted the right of reply to the specific allegation of him not showing up for a paternity test. This allegation was not put to him by the journalist.

Headline: Mr Marawa’s lawyers argue that the headline “MARAWA IS MY BABY DADDY” is presented as a factual statement when there is no evidence to corroborate it. There were also posters “in and around Johannesburg” that carried this statement, without the additional phrase published in the newspaper “Presenter Denies being the Father.”

Rights to privacy, dignity, reputation and interests of children: Mr Marawa’s representatives argue that the article has caused and continues to cause “immense material harm to the constitutional rights to privacy, dignity and reputation” of Mr Marawa. “When it comes to the publication of sexual conduct between consenting adults in the privacy of their homes, the public interest would have to be of an extremely serious and important nature to outweigh the privacy and dignity of individuals as protected by the Constitution…what is interesting to the public is not necessarily in the public interest.”

Had it been true that Mr Marawa had refused to accept responsibility for the alleged pregnancy, this matter may have fallen within the public interest. But this is not the case and “despite numerous requests”, Ms Mberirua had “failed to provide any proof of pregnancy, never mind paternity.”

There was no additional source or evidence to verify Ms Mberirua’s claims.

Moreover, Mr Marawa has an eight-year-old son. “For obvious reasons, the publication of this article has caused emotional harm to his son and is certainly not in his best interests.”

2.9 Mr Marawa’s lawyers ask for a front-page, above-the-fold apology, retraction and correction of the article.

Sunday Sun

2.10 In response, the Sunday Sun deputy editor, Mr Johan Vos, argued that the allegations published in the article were stated as allegations, not facts.

2.11 The article was presented in a balanced manner: the sub-head on the front page reads: “Presenter denies being the father.” And the page 2 headline is: “She was never my girlfriend” with a sub-head saying: “I never saw proof of pregnancy.” This “clearly reflects” what Robert Marawa said in is response.

2.12 Mr Marawa was given the right of reply to the allegations and this denial was published “close to the intro of the article.” It stated that “Marawa strongly denies the claim” and goes on to say he has been the “victim of a relentless campaign of harassment and defamation” by Ms Mberirua (the full excerpt is published above).

2.13 The newspaper also says the journalist tried to call Mr Marawa from the Wednesday in the week before publishing the article but could only get hold of him on the Saturday via WhatsApp.

2.14 The headline: “MARAWA IS MY BABY DADDY’ was not presented as fact. It was in quotation marks and thus clearly attributed to someone else, “in this case Ms Mberirua. The word “MY” reinforces this.

2.15 “We submit that the article was presented in a balanced manner and that the reasonable reader would’ve interpreted the text this way.”

Further arguments

2.16 In response to Sunday Sun’s response, Mr Marawa’s lawyers replied that the paper had not addressed the argument that there was no truth to the allegations, nor that they were unsubstantiated. It had also not addressed the privacy issue, including the clause in the Press Code relating to the “best interests of children.”

2.17 They asked for proof that the reporter had tried to call Mr Marawa since the Wednesday, as he had no record of missed calls or messages until the WhatsApp call he received from the reporter on the Saturday. The exchange between Mr Marawa (in text messages on WhatsApp) and the reporter took place over a long weekend where he would not have had easy access to his legal representatives. The fact that the newspaper argues “it already had the story since Wednesday” also shows that it had not “landed on the journalist’s desk urgently on the Saturday.”

2.18 On the headline: the newspaper argues that the quotation marks indicate that the statement in the head was attributed to someone else. But Mr Marawa’s lawyers say quotation marks do not “absolve the Sunday Sun from its duties and obligations imposed upon it – in terms of both the common law and the Press Code – namely, to present facts in a fair and balanced manner.” They use as an example a headline “Joe Bloggs is a Paedophile – says ex friend” as not lessening the defamatory content of the headline simply as a result of the quotation marks.

  1. Analysis

3.1 There are four key issues raised in this complaint and in the response:

These are:

  • Truth – or sufficient evidence to believe the allegations that Mr Marawa had refused to take responsibility for his unborn child could be reasonably true.
  • The right of reply: whether sufficient time was given to Mr Marawa to respond to the allegations.
  • The headline and poster and whether it reasonably reflected the truth
  • Privacy and best interests of children: Whether Mr Marawa’s privacy was unnecessarily infringed, and whether his eight-year-old son could have been harmed by the story.

Truth

3.2 It is important to record that shortly after this story was published, Mr Marawa’s lawyers, on his behalf, secured an interdict against Ms Mberirua (or Bianca van Agsvachen, as she also calls herself), on 25th March, 2019 in the Durban High Court. Less than two weeks later, they obtained a warrant for her arrest for transgressing the interdict.

3.3 To establish whether the allegations could be reasonably true, I spoke to both Mr Marawa and to the editor and reporter of the Sunday Sun, and consulted Mr Clinton van der Berg of SuperSport about Ms Mberirua’s relationship with the sports broadcaster.

3.4 I asked the reporter, Mr Mduduzi Nonyane, where he had picked up the story in the first place. Interestingly, it came from a police source. Ms Mberirua, aka Ms van Agsvachen, had gone to a Johannesburg police station in about February, 2019 on one or two occasions to lay a complaint about a “stolen car”, and also to lay a charge of “abduction” against an associate of Mr Marawa’s, who had apparently brought her to the SuperSport studios (along with other students/interns)  where she first encountered Mr Marawa.

The reporter told me she that when she had reported the stolen car, she had seemed upset, and asked the police to contact Mr Marawa to fetch her. She had then mentioned the “pregnancy” to an officer who had passed on this information to the reporter.

3.5 The reporter did not manage to speak to Ms Mberirua directly; their interview was conducted through WhatsApp texts. She appears to have left the country and returned to Namibia by that stage.

I asked him about his impression of her: he replied she appeared to be “conflicted”. He was not aware of the interdict brought against her until after the story was published. At that stage too, she declined any follow-up contact with the reporter as she said her lawyers had advised her to refrain from media engagement.

It is clear she was the only source for the story.

3.6 The strong denial by Mr Marawa was contained in his statement: “Since January 2019 I have been the victim of a relentless campaign of harassment and defamation by Ms Mberirua in which she has presented herself at various times and to multiple people – both known and unknown to me, as my wife (untrue), my fiancé (untrue), my girlfriend (untrue), the mother of my unborn twins and subsequently the mother of my unborn child as well as the subject of an alleged assault by an associate of mine (untrue). She has refused to provide any proof of pregnancy or submit herself to a pregnancy test or an in-utero paternity test, despite repeated requests to do so.”

3.7 This should have given the reporter pause and prompted him to at least check out other claims by this young woman to test the veracity of this claim, which was harmful to Mr Marawa. For instance, he could have checked if she had been an intern at SuperSport, as she claimed, or what car had been stolen (Mr Marawa says she did not own a car), or whether he had asked to be her “mentor”.

I checked some of these claims (as did another reporter subsequent to this story being published).[1]

Mr Clinton van der Berg, the senior communications manager at SuperSport, denied Ms Mberirua had ever been an “intern” there.: “I can reaffirm that the woman in question was never an intern at SuperSport,” he said in an email.

3.8 Mr Marawa’s version of events is the following: in the second half of 2018, Ms Mberirua had come to SuperSport as part of the studio audience, where she had taken photos with him. As he was leaving, she was at the gate saying she was waiting for an Uber. She asked where he was going and he replied “Sandton”. She said she was going there too. While in the car, a friend whom he had a pre-existing arrangement at a “jazz evening” called to ask when he would arrive. As the phone was on Bluetooth speaker, she heard the conversation, said the musician playing was one of her favourites, and asked to come. Again, she took pictures.

There was another encounter a short while later when she called him when he was at a friend’s Thai restaurant in Fourways and asked if she could join him. “I said don’t mind; it wasn’t like the dinner was planned…”

In hindsight, he realized that because he “ended up in the same space as the person”, she had used him as “cannon fodder

3.9 By October, “a few months after our first engagement, I realised what kind of person she was…..I was asking for there to be no contact.”

However, she then began to tell people – including “celebrities…that she liked to associate with” that she was his wife. He got wind of this when they messaged him.

There were also incidents in Durban (Mr Marawa’s hometown) where she allegedly misrepresented herself: one was at a BMW dealership where she told the dealer (who subsequently contacted Mr Marawa) that she was “Robert’s wife and was here to buy him a sportscar”.

She did the same at hotels in Durban   – a manager from one called him and said: “There’s a lady here who says she’s your wife and wants us to book a room for her and said I [Marawa] would make payment.”

Then at OR Tambo airport, a friend of his who worked for BA, called to tell him a woman who said she was his wife had asked to use the business class lounge on his credentials.

She also contacted his younger sister through Instagram and sent her “really hectic stuff.”

In December 2018, when he had returned to Durban to visit his family, she gained access to his complex after persuading a resident to drive her in. However, she was apprehended by the security outside his residence.

3.10 Mr Marawa says he had “never endured something like this.” At first, he had thought it was a “sick joke” but the harassment was “relentless” and adversely affected his health.

3.11 He said the interdict, granted on the 25th March 2019, was a last resort. The court instructed her to remove from her social media pages all posts about him or from publishing any “defamatory” posts about him. She was also interdicted from communicating with him. [2]

On 5th April, 2019, a warrant for her arrest was granted by Judge Masipa for being in contempt of the first order.[3]

Around this time, it appears she left the country to return to Namibia.

3.12 It seems the truth is this matter is more complex than the newspaper has reflected. Mr Marawa did not “vanish into thin air”, as the newspaper reported Ms Mberirua’s claims, but he had deliberately cut off communication with her. There was no evidence that he had refused to pay costs for an “unborn child” – whose very existence was in doubt. And he may in fact have been the target of harassment.

The right of reply:

3.13 The reporter says he tried to contact Mr Marawa since the Wednesday afternoon for comment. Had he managed in fact to get hold of him, Mr Marawa’s side of the story may have given him a completely different story.

3.14 Mr Marawa himself says he was first contacted shortly after 12.30 on the Saturday afternoon on a WhatsApp call. He texted back and asked for the questions to be sent as a text message. The journalist sent him the following questions:

  • Can you confirm or deny impregnating her?
  • Can you confirm or deny that you had a relationship with her?
  • Has she levelled these claims to you?
  • If yes, did you indeed refuse to take responsibility?

3.15 Mr Marawa then responded (as quoted above) saying he had been the campaign of “relentless harassment” and that she had refused to provide any proof of pregnancy.

The newspaper did not put to him the allegation that he had refused to have a paternity test, nor that he had asked “to be her mentor.”

3.16 I asked for the journalist’s phone records to ascertain when in fact he had first tried to call Mr Marawa. Mr Vos and Mr Nonyane kindly provided me with his landline records. They indicate three calls to Mr Marawa’s cellphone, all made on Saturday morning.  In the absence of further proof of calls earlier in the week, I must accept Mr Marawa’s word that he was contacted for the first time only on the Saturday a few hours before deadline.

Headline:

3.17 Although the newspaper used as a “strap”, Mr Marawa’s denial “She was never my girlfriend” on the front page, it did not use this in posters which simply said: “MARAWA DUCKS MY PREGNANCY”.

3.18 The headline is in quotation marks and this clearly indicates the statement is attributed to someone else. Mr Marawa’s lawyers argue that the quotation marks does not absolve the newspaper of responsibility. But it is not equivalent, as they argue, to saying “So and so is a paedophile”. It is not a crime to be the father of an unborn child, despite the fact that the allegations that he refused to take responsibility may have damaged his reputation.

The problem is the headline, despite the denial, is premised on the word of one young woman, whom the reporter did not even speak to in person.

3.19 The quotation marks and the denial in the strap do rescue the headline somewhat in terms of the Press Code, but the poster is a different matter. There the wording was: “MARAWA DUCKS MY PREGNANCY!” The impression that would have been created was of a cavalier man who has left a woman in the lurch. On the basis of this specific story, this cannot be justified.

Privacy:

3.20 The Constitution guarantees the right to privacy; moreover, the Constitutional Court has developed according to Dario Milo and Pamela Stein, a “legitimate expectation of privacy” [4].

3.21 However, there are exceptions to this principle. The right to privacy is balanced by the right to freedom of expression, an understanding of what is in the public interest, and what limitations apply to those who are defined as public figures.

The definition of a “public figure” is not one-dimensional. There are, on the one hand, clear definitions such as public officials and politicians who need to be accountable for their actions in more transparent ways than private figures.

But there is another category of public figures, which is broadly in the category of those whose profession thrusts them into the spotlight but who also use their “celebrity” status to make a living. Mr Marawa, for instance, a sports broadcaster by profession, has recently been made a “brand ambassador” for a men’s cosmetic product.[5]

The court in National Media Limited and Others vs Bogoshi helps us further define public figures: “Has he by his personality, status or conduct exposed himself to such a degree of publicity as to justify an intrusion into, or a public discourse on, certain aspects of his private life?[6] .

However, the court also provided a rider on this: there are “core” privacy issues, which may be protected by the courts. A publication has to show that intrusion into certain areas of privacy of a public figure is indeed in the public interest.

3.22 Of course, the right to privacy has always to be balanced with the right to freedom of expression. In a markedly different case in the United States for instance, a family who’d been held hostage in their home by three escaped convicts in the 1950s, sued Life Magazine some years later for “re-enacting” the hostage drama, using actors from a Broadway play based on the incident. The play itself, unlike the reality, depicted a family who’d suffered brutality and violence (in real life the hostages had treated the family “respectfully’).

Life Magazine did a photo shoot using the actors of the play but posing in the former home of the victims. The wife suffered a breakdown; her husband said; “It was just like we didn’t exist, like we were dirt.” A few years later, she took her own life.[7] Although the family won in the State Court, they lost, by a narrow margin in the Supreme Court.  The judges who ruled against the privacy claim argued that “the press, imperfect as it inevitably is, would be forced into self-censorship if it were subject to damages for mistakes that did not damage anyone’s standing in the community…”

3.23 On the other hand, the right to privacy is also an essential part of a community: “Each of our inner lives is such a jungle of thoughts, feelings, fantasies and impulses that civilization would be impossible if we expressed them all..” [8]

In fact, as Lewis points out, authoritarian states have used encroachments into privacy to undermine democracy. As Milan Kundera said: “Life when one can’t hide from the eyes of others – that is hell. Those who have lived in totalitarian countries know it, but that system only brings out, like a magnifying glass, the tendencies of all modern society.”[9]

Kundera said this in an interview in 1985. How much more “under a magnifying glass” people are today, some with good reason, others without.

3.24 So the point in weighting up privacy claims with the right of freedom of expression has to be twofold: public interest and truth, or at least its best approximation.

In this case, Marawa never denied he had a relationship with Ms Mberirua, but he denies the central claim that he refused to take responsibility for an unborn child, whose existence is doubtful.

His lawyers argued in papers before the Ombudsman that had he indeed “refused to accept responsibility…there would undoubtedly be public interest. However, this is absolutely not the case.”

 

3.25 Mr Marawa is not married. There can be no moral or legal limitation on him, therefore, not to have relationships, however brief, of his choosing, as long as these are consensual. We know that in a world where there is vast inequality between men and women, these relationships are frequently unequal and the balance of power is often against young women who in frustration at this state of affairs may use the small powers they have as a last resort.

But even understanding this, the onus is on a publication to at least arrive at a reasonable idea of the truth when delving into probably the most private area of someone’s life, even in the case of someone who makes their living out of being a “public figure.”

 

3.26 There is no indication though, as his lawyers argue, that his eight-year-old son, who does not live with him, was aware of or affected by the story.

 

 

  1. Finding

 

Reasonable truth:

 

4.1 The newspaper was partially correct in that there had been some sort of romantic encounter between Mr Marawa and Ms Mberirua. However, the central allegation that Mr Marawa was “refusing to take responsibility” for Ms Mberirua’s pregnancy, was not backed up by any evidence except her word.

Mr Marawa’s strong response should have acted as a caution that her story “may not be reasonably true”.

Even though the story was presented as “allegations”, it is somewhat disconcerting that any allegation made by someone who may have an agenda, or may have a tenuous grasp on reality, can be published without further checks.

 

On the right of reply:

 

4.2 The available evidence is that Mr Marawa was contacted only hours before the paper went to press. This denied him an opportunity of providing a more comprehensive response and, as his lawyers say, to include supporting documents “which he has in abundance”.

 

On the privacy issue:

 

4.3 Mr Marawa is undoubtedly a public figure and therefore subject to a greater amount of scrutiny (and justifiably so) than the average citizen. If he had indeed refused to take responsibility for a child, the coverage would have been justifiable. But the Press Code preamble cautions against “unnecessary harm”, which means that in cases that may infringe privacy, even if they are justified, special care should be taken to verify the facts.

In this case, with such strong refutation, the onus is on the newspaper to prove reasonable truth of the claims. In fact, had there been a pregnancy carried to term, the baby would have been born in August. The paper could have strengthened its position considerably by checking whether this was the case.

As clause 3.3 of the Press Code states, the media shall take care in matters involving dignity and reputation and can override these only if it is in the public interest and, among other circumstances, if the facts reported are true or substantially true.

 

4.4 As the Council of Europe’s Guidelines on safeguarding privacy in the media, put it: “The more intimate the aspect of private life being disclosed, the more serious the justification must be.” [10]

However, as the EC document says, public figures should know that the position they hold in society – in many cases by choice – automatically entails increased pressure on their privacy. For instance, in the case of Naomi Campbell, the international model who was photographed clandestinely leaving a drug rehabilitation clinic, the House of Lords ruled that although the story was justified (she had previously denied using drugs), the photographs were not and infringed on her right to privacy.[11]

 

4.5 I am reluctant to rule on the grounds of privacy in the case of a public figure, particularly if it impinges on freedom of expression and debate, but in this case the newspaper, apart from checking with Mr Marawa himself, did no other checks on the reliability of its source. To countenance publication of one person’s claims about an intimate relationship, without stipulating the importance of establishing reasonable truthfulness, may set a precedent for the publication of any unsubstantiated claim as long as the subject of that complaint is contacted for a reply.

 

On the headline:

 

4.6 The headline itself, did carry a strap on page 1 and page 2, where the story was used, indicating Mr Marawa’s strong denial. This was in line with the Press Code. However, the posters said: “MARAWA DUCKS MY PREGNANCY” without reflecting his view in the same space.

 

I therefore find the Sunday Sun has transgressed Section 1.1 and 1.3 of the Press Code, as well as section 3.3. and section 10.2 (“Posters shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the reports in question.”)

 

These are all Tier 2 offences.

 

The Sunday Sun is to publish a correction and an apology to Mr Marawa on the same page where the story was run. The correction should state that it had no evidence other than one source for its report that Mr Marawa refused to take responsibility for Ms Mberirua’s pregnancy. It should also apologise for the poster that did not carry any other point of view except the source’s. It should also apologise for an unnecessary infringement on his privacy and for not allowing him adequate time to respond to the allegation.

 

 The newspaper’s correction  and apology should be published on the same page as the original print story and be approved by the Ombudsman. The Press Council logo and a link to this finding should also be published.

 

Appeal

The Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

 

Pippa Green

Press Ombudsman

November 12, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://city-press.news24.com/News/robert-marawa-strikes-back-with-interdict-against-prophetess-20190331

 

[2] High Court of South Africa, Kwazulu-Natal Local Division,Robert Marawa vs Nguvi Mberirua also known as Bianca von Agsvachen, Case No: D2450/2019

[3] High Court of SA, Kwazulu-Natal Local Division, Marawa vs Mberirua, Case No: D2450/2019

[4] Milo, D and Stein, P: A practical guide to media law, LEXISNEXIS, 2013, p 52

[5] https://www.msn.com/en-za/entertainment/local/robert-marawa-signs-with-nivea-men/ar-BBUKNbW#page=2

 

[6] Quoted in Milo and Stein, op cit, p58

[7] This case and the one below taken from Lewis, A: Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment; Basic Books, New York, 2007

[8] Nagel, T: The Shredding of Public Privacy; Times Literary Supplement, August 14, 1998; quoted in Lewis, A: op cit

[9] New York Times Magazine, May 19, 1985; quoted in Lewis, A, op cit

[10] Council of Europe, Guidelines on safeguarding privacy in the media; 2018

[11] Ibid and Milo and Stein, op cit.