André Oliver vs. Daily Voice


Sun, Dec 8, 2013

André Oliver vs. Daily Voice

 

Ruling by the Press Ombudsman

December 8, 2013

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr André Oliver and the Daily Voice newspaper.

Complaint

Oliver complains about a picture next to a story on page 4 in Daily Voice on 19 August 2013. The article was headlined Home Wrecker – Car slams into house, killing driver and friend on impact.

Oliver says that the deceased (Lorenzo Minnaar, 21) was his daughter’s partner, and complains that the pictures were insensitive and distressing. He also says that the story wrongly identified Minnaar as the driver of car that was involved in the fateful crash.

Analysis

The story was about a woman whose grandson was killed in a car crash on her birthday (two people died in the incident). 

The article was accompanied by five pictures:

·         The main one showed the car wreck after it had driven into a house. Three officials inspected the car, and no dead bodies were visible;

·         A smaller picture of the same scenario, taken from a different angle, also showed no dead bodies;

·         A mug shot of Minnaar was published (that picture was taken while he was still alive) and one of Minnaar’s mother and his sister; and

·         The fifth one showed two bodies lying on the ground. Minnaar’s face was partly visible and could therefore be identified from the picture.

The editor, Taariq Halim, admits that it was a mistake to include the offending picture (I have little doubt that he refers to the last one, as described above). He expressed his regret at having published the picture, which was not authorized by him. “I expressed my regret at having published the picture at the time and, today, in writing, I would like to once again apologise for any distress caused.”

He adds that the issue of the driver was clarified in a follow-up story (this issue had not been confirmed, and it was stated as such). As Oliver did not deny this specific allegation by the editor, I accept that the newspaper has handled this part of the complaint satisfactorily.

The publication of the first four pictures was justified, as it merely showed some people involved and the crash itself. None of these photographs could have breached the Press Code.

However, the last one showed two dead bodies, with Minnaar’s face partly visible. I agree with both Oliver and the editor that the publication of this picture was insensitive. I have said on many occasions in previous rulings that the more prominent a person and the greater the public interest in a case, the more leeway a newspaper has of identifying the body. In this case, though, none of these requirements were met.

This goes for Minnaar’s body, and not for the other person (as he could not have been identified from the picture).

I appreciate the editor’s spontaneous apology.

Finding

The publication of the picture of Minnaar’s partly identifiable face is in breach of Section 9 of the Press Code that states: “Due care and responsibility shall be exercised by the press with regard to the presentation of…suffering.”

Sanction

Daily Voice is directed to:

·         apologise to Minnaar’s family and his loved-ones for the publication of the picture in question; and

·         publish the text below on page 4.

Daily Voice apologises to the family of deceased Lorenzo Minnaar (21) for publishing a picture of his partly visible and identifiable face after he had died in a car crash. We regret the fact that this picture has caused his family and loved-ones unnecessary harm.

A complaint was lodged with the Press Ombudsman, who found that this picture was in breach of the Press Code because we did not exercise due care and responsibility with regard to the presentation of suffering.

Ombudsman Johan Retief said: “I have said on many occasions in previous rulings that the more prominent a person and the greater the public interest in a case, the more leeway a newspaper has of identifying the body. In this case, though, none of these requirements were met.”

He also ruled that the publication of four other pictures that accompanied the story were not unethical. Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.

Appeal

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

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman