Douglas Mthukwane vs. Diamond Fields Advertiser


Tue, Dec 4, 2012

 

Ruling by the Deputy Press Ombudsman

December 3, 2012

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr D. Mthukwane and the Diamond Fields Advertiser newspaper.

Complaint

Former spokesperson of the Ministry of Education Douglas Mthukwane complains about a story in the Diamond Fields Advertiser (DFA) on 28 August 2012 and headlined ‘A rapist is like lightning’.

He complains that the:

·         story sought to instigate a kangaroo court verdict;

·         article was racist; and

·         reporter did not ask him for comment.

Analysis

The story, written by Sandi Kwon Hoo, was about court proceedings in a rape case against Mthukwane. Hoo mainly reported what the state prosecutor said.

The DFA says that Hoo attended the court session and merely reported on what was said during the proceedings. “We received no complaints from court officials, including the magistrate, the prosecutor and Mr Mthukwane’s legal representative that we inaccurately portrayed proceedings and events that transpired during the court session.”

The newspaper adds that the court case was ongoing and that it could only publish what transpired in court. When Mthukwane’s turn comes to testify, it would accurately and objectively report his side of the story.

After careful reading of the story, I cannot but agree with the DFA. The article was par for the course – it was plain, straightforward court reporting.

As such, the reporter should not have asked Mthukwane for comment, as this could have prejudiced court proceedings. Moreover, Mthukwane will get his chance to give evidence – which is when the DFA will get a chance to report his side of the story.

I have also looked closely for any trace of any kind of (subliminal) racism, but could not find anything of the sort.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

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

Johan Retief

Deputy Press Ombudsman