Appeal Decision: Biribauer Michael vs Eye Witness News

Decision: Appeal Hearing

Applicant:  Michael Biribauer

Respondent: Eye Witness News

Matter No: 3401/06/2017
1.     Mr Michael Biribauer (“applicant”) lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombud of the Press Council against Eye Witness (“respondent”) in respect of an article which appeared in the respondent’s edition of 18 July 2017, with the headline “Looking at life through a white frame”.

2.     It was an opinion piece by one Dawjee, described as a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations, feminism, etc.  The above description of the person is important to understanding the piece. I briefly paraphrase the piece: It went about the privileges enjoyed by white people, vis-à-vis black “privileges” or, more accurately, the lack thereof. For white people, privilege is part of their lives, taking it for granted.  They moan about affirmative action, that government does not care about them, that people of colour have privileges and probably even earn more.  She castigates white people for thinking that privileges belong to them, don’t want to be at the end of the que, but rather upfront.

3.     The complaint was irked by the piece.  In his Ruling dated 2 August 2017, the Ombud summarizes the complaint as follows: “Biribauer complained the column was biased as it implied that:

·                white people liked to live like the people they “suppressed” as though it was a genetic code that made them want to experience the oppressed version – a seriously flawed racial stereotyping which has defamed the entire white race;

·                people of other races did not enjoy such activities, meaning the industry is catering for people on a racial basis; and

·                Dawjee has ‘debased’ her ‘white’ partner as a thoughtless piece of human garbage, which has publicly humiliated her friend and has amounted to mental abuse towards her partner.

He adds that this column has sought to further the agenda of a certain (undisclosed) political party, and that the author did not seek comment from anybody”.

4.    In its down defence, the respondent argued that the article was an opinion piece; giving “an account of the power of white privilege from the perspective of a person of colour”. The author was merely giving example of some of the stereotypes, with reference to her own experience as a partner to a white person.  As far the complaint that the author is causing psychological and mental abuse to her partner, respondent says there is no evidence to support the claim; it is a ludicrous claim. The respondent argues that the article is protected under article 7.2 of the Press Code.

5.     How anybody could have taken the article so seriously as to think it justifies a complained, boggles one’s mind.  As the Ombud says, even if the applicant finds the article distasteful and insulting, such is the nature of the freedom of speech.  I really do not have to add anything more to the rasons given by the Ombud.  The applicant or anyone else for that matter, would do well to read the Decision of the Appeal Panel in the matter of Pillay Verashi vs AfriForum And Others, matter 3239/04/2017 , dated 18th August 2017, which is on our website. In that case, an even more robust language was used, accusing white males of having been the cause of all the ills in the world and that they should therefore be disenfranchised.  To be fair to the applicant though, at the time he lodged his complaint, the above Decision was not yet out.

6.     For the reasons given above, the applicant has no reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Panel; the application is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 30th day of August 2017

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel