Peter Moss vs Bhekisisa
Fri, Feb 17, 2023
17 February 2023
Date of publication: 2 September 2022
These gun laws saved 30 lives a month in two big cities. Here’s what it could mean for SA (News24)
Strict gun laws save 30 lives a month in two Colombian cities. Here’s what it can mean for South Africa (Mail&Guardian)
Gun laws save 30 lives a month in two South American cities. Could the same work here? (Daily Maverick)
What gun laws could work for SA? (Financial Mail)
Author: Jesse Copelyn
This finding is based on a written complaint by Mr Peter Moss; a written response by the Public Advocate, in which he declined to accept the complaint for adjudication; a written application for adjudication by Mr Moss; a written response on behalf of the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism by its Editor-in-Chief Ms Mia Malan; and a written reply by Mr Moss.
The complainant submits that the article transgresses Clauses 3.1, 3.3.1, 3.3.2, 5.2, 6, 7.2 and 10.1 of the Press Code:
“3. The media shall:
“3.1 exercise care and consideration in matters involving the private lives of individuals. The right to privacy may be overridden by public interest;…
“3.3 exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation, which may be overridden only if it is in the public interest and if:
“3.3.1. the facts reported are true or substantially true; or
“3.3.2. the reportage amounts to protected comment based on facts that are adequately referred to and that are either true or reasonably true; …”
“5. The media shall:
“5.2 balance their right and duty to report and comment on all matters of legitimate public interest against the obligation not to publish material that amounts to propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or hate speech – that is, advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.”
“6. The media may strongly advocate their own views on controversial topics, provided that they clearly distinguish between fact and opinion, and not misrepresent or suppress or distort relevant facts.”
“7.2 Comment or criticism is protected even if it is extreme, unjust, unbalanced, exaggerated and prejudiced, as long as it is without malice, is on a matter of public interest, has taken fair account of all material facts that are either true or reasonably true, and is presented in a manner that it appears clearly to be comment.”
“10.1 Headlines, captions to pictures or posters shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report or picture in question …”
1. Summary of article
1.1. The article examines policies adopted by the South African government in order to prevent gun violence. In addition, it looks at measures implemented in two other countries, namely the United States (US) and Colombia.
1.2. The article starts off by stating that there were fewer gun deaths in South Africa after it tightened its gun laws in 2001, and says that the recent increase in such deaths has reignited a debate on whether these laws should once again be strengthened.
1.2.1. The article then asks where the firearms come from that are used by criminals in South Africa, and cites evidence that claims that most of the guns that end up in the hands of criminals are reportedly lost or stolen from licensed civilians and private security firms.
1.2.2. As a result, the gun control lobby is in favour of new rules that will result in “a smaller pool of legal firearms so that there are fewer guns that could eventually end up in the hands of criminals”.
1.2.3. On the other hand, the pro-gun lobby argues that South Africans should have the right to own guns in order to protect themselves, and point to the failure of the police service to effectively perform this role. Furthermore, it denies that criminals get their weapons from legal gun owners.
1.3. The article observes that both the pro- and anti-gun lobbies have been accused of making false claims. It then goes on to examine the evidence on the impact of gun laws on violent crime in South Africa.
1.3.1. It refers to the Firearms Control Act (FCA), which was passed in 2001. This law introduced tighter gun control provisions and followed several other measures in the early 2000s such as a series of police operations to capture and destroy illegal weapons.
1.3.2. It notes that there is no evidence that proves that this “caused fewer gun murders” (emphasis in original), but states that the new rules were indeed followed by a drop in the number of gun deaths, and refers to various statistics in support of this claim.
1.3.3. However, a report by Wits University’s School of Governance on the impact of the FCA between 2000 and 2014 argues that the decrease cannot be attributed to new gun policies as these only came into effect in 2004, when there was already a decline in gun murders.
1.3.4. On the other hand, a report by the criminologist Guy Lamb shows that the police started to reject gun permits in greater numbers in 2000 and 2001 even though the FCA only formally came into effect three years later, and suggests that it is therefore likely that the law did play a role in reducing gun violence in the early 2000s.
1.4. The article then looks at what South Africa can learn from other countries.
1.4.1. In the US, for instance, research was reportedly able to show cause and effect – “in many cases, more lenient gun laws actually lead to more murders”.
1.4.2. In addition, rules introduced in a number of US states from 2005 onwards to give people firmer legal grounds to shoot an attacker in self-defence – supposedly to make criminals more reluctant to attack – did nothing to make people safer or to stop robberies.
1.4.3. In fact, according to the article, there is a substantial body of evidence that shows that in states where these laws were passed, murders increased significantly in comparison to those states that maintained stricter rules on the use of firearms.
1.5. In Colombia, too, evidence reportedly shows that murder and armed violence increase when civilians are allowed to carry guns.
1.5.1. Bogotá and Medellín permanently banned people from carrying guns in 2012, while elsewhere in the country the right to carry a firearm was still allowed. According to a study in 2020, there was an overall decrease in gun murders after the gun ban in Bogotá and Medellín, but the drop in those two cities was two times greater than in other large metropoles.
1.6. In South Africa, legislation allows citizens to carry guns on them as long as the weapon is covered (“concealed carry”).
1.6.1. But, according to Richard Matzopoulos of the South African Medical Research Council, a well-armed population is of concern in a country where violence is often the first resort for dealing with conflict.
1.6.2. He further argues that people carrying guns “likely” plays a role in how deadly disputes become. He points out that taking away people’s guns does not necessarily make them less violent, but it does make them “less adept” at killing each other.
2.1. Firstly, the complainant submits that the article is factually incorrect in a number of respects and, among other things, indicates that “firearms have special powers [that] other objects do not have”.
2.1.1. He further contends that the article uses techniques of persuasion which are based on emotional pleas which are also not factually correct.
2.2. Secondly, the complainant submits that the article is not balanced and that it does not mention the results “of creating helpless defenceless citizens” (presumably by implementing gun control laws).
2.2.1. He adds that rights that cannot be secured are no longer rights, and makes reference to the right to life, safety, property and freedom.
3. Public Advocate
3.1. In response, the Public Advocate states that the “reasonable reader” will regard the article as an “opinion piece”, even though the article is not clearly marked as such.
3.1.1. He points out that the four publications which used the article prominently attribute it to the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism. In addition, he says, the article contains a number of links to sources on which the article is based.
3.2. The Public Advocate also refers the complainant to the provisions of Clause 7.2 of the Press Code that deal with protected comment.
3.2.1. In view of the above, he states that he cannot find a prima facie breach of the Press Code in the article.
3.3. The Public Advocate further states that the Press Council’s complaints mechanism is not the right forum to decide which side of the gun debate is correct and observes that “[t]he pro-gun and anti-gun debate is an on-going one”.
3.3.1. He therefore advised the complainant to submit letters or opinion pieces to the editors of the publications concerned.
3.4. In response, the complainant submitted a request for adjudication and a motivation for the reasons behind his request.
4. Decision to adjudicate
4.1. The Public Advocate declined to accept the complainant’s complaint on the grounds that the article is an “opinion piece”, and that it complies with the provisions of Clause 7.2 of the Press Code.
4.1.1. Accordingly, he submits that he cannot find a prima face breach of the Press Code.
4.2. In my view, the article is not an “opinion piece” in the strict sense that the descriptive term is generally understood in journalism: the author does not explicitly outline his own view or views on the subject in question.
4.2.1. Instead, the article is primarily an outline of the findings of a number of studies on gun laws in South Africa, the US and Colombia, along with an analysis of the findings of those studies.
4.3. In light of the above, I believe there is room for a review of the Public Advocate’s finding that the article is an “opinion piece” and, accordingly, meets the requirements of “Protected Comment” as prescribed in Clause 7.2 of the Press Code.
4.3.1. The request for adjudication is therefore granted.
5.1. The complainant starts off by commenting that “bias and beliefs … stand in the way of unbiased thinking due to the widespread dissemination of false ideologies”.
5.1.1. Presumably in response to the Public Advocate’s reference to an ongoing pro-gun and anti-gun debate, he contends that no such debate exists – “except within the media and public perceptions” – and later refers to this as “a fake debate”.
5.1.2. He argues that the intention behind promoting such a debate is “to remove property and rights that otherwise would not be relinquished”.
5.2. With regard to the article itself, the complainant submits that the Press Code requires that an opinion piece should be clearly indicated as such, and argues that it is irrelevant who the article is attributed to.
5.2.1. What is important, he submits, is whether the public assumes that the source of the article is reliable and trustworthy.
5.2.2. He goes on to argue that the public does not expect a “health journalism” organisation (in other words, Bhekisisa) to be a source of propaganda engaged in deception and damaging their rights and safety. Yet, he submits, the article contains nothing but propaganda “intended to deceive and mislead”.
5.3. The complainant further submits that statistics are used to promote gun control and that correlations are chosen which are easily manipulated and abused. However, he argues: “Gun control fails on the simple fact [that] no causal mechanism exists.”
5.3.1. And without cause, he argues, there is no reason to control any object: “Thus matches are not controlled to prevent arson, spoons controlled to prevent obesity, vehicles to prevent vehicle accidents.” He then poses the question: “Are firearms a unique object?”
5.4. Presumably with reference to Clause 7.2 of the Press Code, the complainant asks whether malice is absent in “factually incorrect information designed to deprive citizens of the best means of protecting their lives, property and freedom”.
5.4.1. He goes on to ask whether “the ombudsman” (in fact, this reference is to the Public Advocate) is not aware of the stated goal of all gun control organisations which, according to him, is to remove the firearms of citizens.
5.4.2. And, he submits, it is common cause that a right without the means to achieve it cannot be a right (in his initial complaint, he refers to the right to life, safety, property and freedom; see 2.2.1 above).
5.5. The complainant also contends that the article is disguised as a news report which is scientifically valid and does not clearly indicate that it is potentially harmful (again, this is presumably with reference to Clause 7.2 of the Press Code).
5.5.1. However, he argues, “any editor should be sufficiently aware of the danger of allowing such deliberate misleading of the public into acceptance of loss of rights, safety and property” and, accordingly, should have treated publication of the article with care and suspicion.
5.6. The complainant goes on to refer to Clause 3.1 of the Press Code, and submits that it is indisputable that South African citizens have the right to life, security, property and freedom.
5.6.1. Removing the ability of citizens to exercise, obtain or retain any of these rights is a negation of those rights. Accordingly, he argues, an organisation that advocates the removal of lawful property that is essential to the defence of these rights is harmful.
5.7. With reference to Clauses 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 of the Press Code, the complainant argues that the article attributes certain properties to firearms which are not true or reasonably true. (He states elsewhere in his argument that “no evidence exists that objects are not inert and [that] firearms are not unique objects that exceed the known properties of objects”).
5.7.1. He returns to this point later and argues: “Gun control organisations and the article … contend that [a] firearm [is] a unique object, the only object in the known universe that has the property to influence, force, control, induce or otherwise cause humans to commit acts against their will.”
5.7.2. He submits that science and courts of law do not accept that such a “causal property” exists, nor do they even recognise the possibility that such a property exists.
5.8. Regarding Clause 5.2 of the Press Code, the complainant submits that the article lacks balance, and that its main focus is to remove the property of citizens that protect their lives, safety, property and freedom. That, he states, “can be nothing but harmful”.
5.9. In relation to Clause 6 of the Press Code, the complainant submits that the article is in breach of this requirement because it presents the opinions of others as verified research. He questions whether a single publisher checked the validity of the article.
5.10. The complainant returns to Clause 7.2 of the Press Code, and repeats his point that it is common cause that the right to life and property exists. He goes on to argue that the government and police have no responsibility to protect citizens and their lives or property. That, he contends, is the sole responsibility of every individual.
5.10.1. He repeats his argument that disarming individuals would negate the right to life or property as it would render them “utterly helpless in the face of any armed aggressor”. He asks whether this does not amount to malice.
5.11. With regard to Clause 10.1 of the Press Code, the complainant submits that the article is identified either as “Analysis” or “News”.
5.11.1. However, he argues, the article is presented in a manner which mimics a research paper: “Balance is feigned by presenting straw-man claims and then demolishing them with false claims or not applicable claims.”
5.12. In conclusion, the complainant asks for any claims that material facts are in debate to be fully motivated. He also asks for a full motivation that the publication of the “deliberate manipulation of public opinion is not intended to be harmful”.
5.13. In reply, the respondent submits that there is no basis for the complainant’s claims that the article is factually incorrect, uses emotional pleas, attributes “special powers” to firearms and is unbalanced. The publication adds that it is absurd to allege that it attributes “special powers” to firearms.
5.13.1. It also rejects the argument that the peer-reviewed studies in the article are the opinion of the author. This is incorrect, it contends, and submits that all the findings quoted in the article are from sound academic studies.
5.14. The respondent then identifies the following as the two main claims of its article: (1) gun murder declined after the FCA was passed in South Africa, and (2) there is causal evidence that weaker gun laws increased murder in various US states, while stricter gun laws reduced murder in Colombia.
5.14.1. With regard to the first claim, the publication refers to literature which it believes shows that this is true, including a study by the American Journal of Public Health and studies in the South African Medical Research Journal.
5.14.2. It notes that these studies use different measurement techniques to show that gun murders decreased after the FCA was passed. Some use national data on death notifications from StatsSA, while others analyse mortuaries.
5.14.3. The publication submits that much of the literature referred to shows that gun murders declined “more steeply” than other kinds of murders after the FCA was passed. It therefore suggests that it is more likely that interventions specifically targeting guns are behind the drop in murders.
5.14.4. However, the respondent points out, the article recognises that this research still only constitutes a correlation, and that is not known whether this is a coincidence or not. For this reason, the article looks at other countries for causal research
5.15. With regard to the second main claim of the article, the respondent submits that it is also true and refers to studies of laws passed in the US from 2005 onwards which gave gun owners more leeway to use a gun.
5.15.1. It refers to a series of “causal papers” which, it contends, show that these “looser” gun laws increased the murder rate, namely two papers in the Journal of Human Resources and a paper in JAMA Internal Medicine, a journal published by the American Medical Association.
5.15.2. In the case of Colombia, the respondent submits that “causal research” found that laws which restricted the right to carry guns caused a reduction in the murder rate in Bogotá and Medellín.
5.15.3. It adds that additional research has become available since the publication of its article that corroborates the findings quoted in the article.
5.15.4. An analysis of more than 150 studies on the impact of US gun control by RAND Corporation, released on 10 January 2023, reportedly found that there is a correlation between laws which expand the right to carry concealed guns and more gun homicides.
5.15.5. In addition, the RAND Corporation study apparently found that laws which allow people to use deadly force in “reasonable” cases of self-defence are linked to “significant” increases in gun homicides.
5.16. In conclusion, the respondent states that “none of this” is the opinion of the author of the article or of Bhekisisa, and that the core claims of the article are based on empirical academic literature.
5.16.1. It emphasises that the research on Colombia and the US are not random statistical correlations made up by the author, but are derived from rigorous causal research methods used by experts.
5.16.2. In light of the above, the respondent submits that its article is not the opinion of the author, but the findings of sound academic research that have since been corroborated by further research.
5.17. In response, the complainant asks why the public should be subjected to the propaganda and false claims of the advocates of “gun control” when the courts will not accept their claims as valid.
5.17.1. He returns to the issue he raised in point 5.7.1, and submits that gun control organisations – through misguided media outlets – use statistics to promote the fallacy that firearms are unique in that they are the only objects with the ability to influence human beings and make them commit acts against their will.
5.17.2. In the process, he argues, such media outlets promote the objective of gun control organisations, which is to deprive citizens of the natural right to defend life, property and freedom.
5.17.3. He asks whether people’s lives should be placed in danger by deliberately frightening them with false claims in order to unjustifiably remove their best means of securing their rights.
5.17.4. He argues that oppressive governments seize the opportunity created by induced fear to increase their power and control by manipulating the public into willingly giving up their right to life, property and freedom.
5.18. With regard to the statistics quoted in the article, the complainant contends: “Statistics are not proof but simply represent what the examined data reveals … Statistics are a tool used to examine data and [are] absolutely superfluous when hard data exists.”
5.18.1. He goes on to claim that “an agenda driven advocacy (propaganda) organisation has paid for and produced a mountain of dubious statistical evidence using correlations falsely claiming causality”.
5.18.2. He further submits that Bhekisisa offers no rebuttal of what he regards as damning and irrefutable physical evidence, but merely dismisses this evidence as absurd in order to draw the least amount of attention to this glaring omission.
5.18.3. He says that either the statistics of gun control organisations are correct or established physics is correct. However, he notes, no debate exists in the scientific world on the properties of objects nor in any court of law.
5.18.4. He submits that gun control organisations have not yet produced a rational explanation for the mechanism of causation. He further argues that gun restrictions claimed as a success in one location fail in another location.
5.18.5. He refers to two studies which, according to him, are an indication of the poor quality and lack of validity of research on gun control: (1) a 2000-2002 study by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, which found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any firearm laws or combinations of laws, and (2) a 2004 study by the National Research Council, which could not identify a single gun-control regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide or accidents.
5.19. The complainant then addresses Bhekisisa’s two main claims (see point 5.14 above).
5.19.1. He dismisses the first claim – that gun murder declined after the FCA was passed – as a circular argument designed to create a non-existing link between guns and murder. He dismisses it as false on the grounds that its premise proves its claim.
5.19.2. He comments that the second claim – that there is causal evidence that stricter gun laws reduced murder in Colombia and weaker gun laws increased murder in various US states – is a comparison between two locations of homicide and firearm ownership that may well be true as a correlation.
5.19.3. However, he argues that other possible causes in a politically unstable country are an obvious omission of causal factors, and adds that an equal number of other countries are not offered as examples. He rejects this as “cherry picking”, and describes it as fraudulent and false.
6.1. The complainant introduces his argument by referring to “the widespread dissemination of false ideologies”, and suggests that this prevents “unbiased thinking” (see point 5.1).
6.1.1. This contention falls outside the domain of the Ombud. The jurisdiction of the Press Council is limited to the Press Code, and the role of the Ombud is solely to determine whether or not there are any breaches of the Press Code.
6.2. The complainant also describes the Public Advocate’s reference to a debate between pro- and anti-gun lobbies as fake (point 5.1.1). This aspect of his argument, too, falls outside the domain of the Press Code.
6.2.1. To repeat, the only issue that is relevant in this complaint is whether or not the article is in breach of any clauses of the Press Code.
6.3. The complainant then turns to the Public Advocate’s reason for declining to accept his complaint – namely, that it is an “opinion piece” that is clearly attributed to the respondent.
6.3.1. The complainant contends that it is irrelevant who the article is attributed to, and notes that Clause 7.2 stipulates that an article should be clearly identified as an opinion (point 5.2).
6.3.2. He has a valid point in that the four publications that used the article variously flagged it as “Op-ed” (Daily Maverick), “National” (Mail&Guardian), “Analysis” (News24) and “News and Fox” (Financial Mail).
6.3.3. The Public Advocate, too, acknowledges that the article is “not 100% clearly marked as an opinion piece”, but states that a reasonable reader will regard the article as an opinion piece.
6.3.4. However, as I stated in point 4.2, the article is not an “opinion piece” in the strict sense that the term is generally used and understood in journalism. The article is not an exposition of the author’s own view or views on the efficacy of various gun laws.
6.3.5. Instead, the article is essentially a report on a number of studies on gun laws in South Africa, the US and Colombia, along with an analysis of their findings. As such, the article straddles both reportage and analysis, and can perhaps best be described as news analysis.
6.3.6. Such an article attempts to understand and explain a particular issue (or issues) in the news, based on verifiable information and/or empirical research. In other words, it offers a description and analysis of certain information and/or research; it is not the personal opinion of an individual or individuals.
6.3.7. Analytical writing invariably involves a degree of interpretation. Even so, the interpretation offered must be based on, and accurately reflect, the information and/or research being analysed (in line with the Press Code’s injunctions on fairness and truthfulness, which apply to all articles, irrespective of the category of journalism).
6.3.8. In the case of Bhekisisa’s article, there is no evidence that the author distorted or misrepresented the findings of the research on which the article is based.
6.3.9. In fact, the article even acknowledges that some of the research conducted in South Africa after the FCA was passed provides no more than a correlation between certain interventions targeting guns and a drop in murders in which guns were used (1.3.2).
6.3.10. The article also refers to a report by Wits University’s School of Governance on the impact of the FCA between 2000 and 2014, which contends that the decrease in gun murders cannot be attributed to new gun policies as these only came into effect in 2004 (1.3.3).
6.3.11. In light of the above, the article is fair, accurate and balanced, and is devoid of any malice.
6.4. It is important to note that the respondent also distances itself from describing the article as an opinion – whether of the author or of Bhekisisa. It states emphatically that the contents of the article are based on empirical research published in academic journals (see point 5.16), and have since been corroborated by further research (5.16.2).
6.4.1. The next question, then, is how reliable and trustworthy this research is.
6.4.2. The complainant implies that Bhekisisa is a source of propaganda, and that the article itself contains nothing but propaganda intended to deceive members of the public (5.2.2).
6.4.3. This claim must be treated with the utmost circumspection, if not dismissed out of hand. Bhekisisa is an independent, non-profit organisation that is overseen by a board of experts from the media, health and legal industries.
6.4.4. More importantly, the article which is the subject of this complaint is based on peer-reviewed academic studies, in line with Bhekisisa’s stated approach to what it characterises as evidence-based journalism.
6.4.5. In other words, its articles are based on research that has been evaluated by editors and other experts to critically assess it for quality and scientific merit. Only articles that pass through this rigorous process are published.
6.5. The complainant also repeatedly questions the way the respondent uses statistics in the article, and asserts that correlations are selected which are easily manipulated.
6.5.1. The Press Council is not the correct forum to determine the reliability and accuracy of the statistics quoted in the article. As noted repeatedly, the jurisdiction of the Press Council is confined to ensuring that member publications adhere to the provisions of the Press Code.
6.5.2. However, it would be remiss of me not to reiterate that the research quoted in the respondent’s article is drawn from peer-reviewed journals, whose content is routinely scrutinised by other experts (see point 6.4.5 above and the accompanying footnote).
6.5.3. Moreover, an inspection of the academic articles on which Bhekisisa’s article is based does not reveal any factual inaccuracies. Nor is there any suggestion of any misrepresentation by Bhekisisa or any attempt to mislead its readers by manipulating the facts.
6.5.4. The article is therefore an accurate and balanced reflection of the research on which it is based.
6.6. A recurring aspect of the complainant’s argument is that guns are inanimate objects and, as such, do not possess the ability to influence human beings and make them commit acts against their will (see points 5.7, 5.17.1 and 5.18.3).
6.6.1. However, nowhere in its article does the respondent express such a claim. As I stated initially in 4.2.1, and subsequently in 6.3.5, the article is, first and foremost, an outline of research on gun laws in three countries and an analysis of this research.
6.7. In his response to the respondent, the complainant claims that, in addition to being a violation of Clause 7.2 of the Press Code, the article breached several other clauses as well.
6.7.1. In relation to Clause 3.1, he suggests that an organisation that advocates the removal of lawful property that is essential to protect the right to life, security, property and freedom – namely, guns – is harmful.
220.127.116.11. However, in my view this clause on “Privacy, Dignity and Reputation” applies specifically to individuals who are clearly identified by name, and is not intended to apply to all individuals in general.
18.104.22.168. Nevertheless, even if this clause is applied more generally to members of the public at large, the article does not advocate the removal of guns. What it does, as noted previously, is examine the impact of gun laws on violent crime, and what South Africa can learn from gun laws in other countries.
22.214.171.124. Clauses 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 are not applicable in this case either for the same reason outlined in 126.96.36.199.
188.8.131.52. Nevertheless, even if these two clauses are applied to this aspect of the complaint, there is no evidence that the article contains any facts that are not true or substantially true, and therefore complies with Clauses 3.3.1 and 3.3.2.
6.7.2. There is also no substance in the complainant’s claim that the article violates Clause 5.2 of the Press Code and is harmful.
184.108.40.206. He makes a general comment that it is harmful to advocate the removal of property that enables citizens to protect their lives, safety, property and freedom (see point 5.8).
220.127.116.11. However, Clause 5.2 – which is part of the section in the Press Code that deals with “Discrimination and Hate Speech” – does not apply to this aspect of the complaint. This clause specifically prohibits the publication of material which advocates “hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion” (my emphases).
18.104.22.168. Nowhere does the article refer to people on the basis of any of these descriptive categories, directly or otherwise, nor does it incite anyone to commit an act of violence against anybody.
6.7.3. With regard to Clause 6, the complainant argues that the article presents the opinions of others as verified research – in other words, that it misrepresents or distorts facts. This is a far-fetched allegation, which verges on the preposterous.
22.214.171.124. As noted earlier, the article is based on peer-reviewed research: it has been evaluated by other experts in the field, and deemed to meet the required academic standards.
126.96.36.199. In addition, it should be noted that the article complies with the obligation imposed by Clause 6 not to misrepresent or distort any relevant facts (a point also made under 6.5.3).
6.7.4. In relation to Clause 10.1 of the Press Code, the complainant argues that the article is identified either as news or analysis (see point 5.11) when, in his view, it is not balanced and contains false claims or claims which are not applicable.
188.8.131.52. However, the only issue that is relevant in terms of Clause 10.1 is whether or not the “Headlines, Captions, Posters, Pictures and Video/Audio Content” mislead the public and give a reasonable reflection of the article or picture.
184.108.40.206. The headlines of each of the four publications that published the article are indeed a fair and reasonable reflection of its contents. There is no evidence of any intention to mislead.
220.127.116.11. Each of the headlines is qualified by the word “could” or “can”, and does not make any definitive statements.
18.104.22.168. The illustrations used by the publications also give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the article. Three include a photograph which features a gun, while News24 uses a graphic of a gun with the caption: “Gun deaths are on the rise again in SA.”
The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 3.1 is dismissed (for the reasons outlined in points 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 of my Analysis).
The complaint that the article is in breach of Clauses 3.3.1 and 3.3.2 is dismissed (for the reasons set out in points 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 of my Analysis).
The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 5.2 is dismissed (for the reasons provided in points 6.7.2, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 of my Analysis).
The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 6 is dismissed (for the reasons set out in points 6.7.3, 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 of my Analysis).
The complaint that the article is in breach of Clause 7.2 is dismissed (for the reasons outlined under point 6.3 of my Analysis, in particular points 6.3.4. to 6.3.11).
The complaint that the headline of the article is in breach of Clause 10.1 is dismissed (for the reasons provided in points 184.108.40.206 to 220.127.116.11 of my Analysis).
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
Deputy Press Ombudsman
17 February 2023
 Academics Frank Esser and Andrea Umbricht describe news analyses as “stories mixing information and interpretation” (Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol 91 (2), 2014).
 The Taylor and Francis Group, a leading academic publisher, informs potential contributors that peer review is “the independent assessment of your research paper by experts in your field. The purpose of peer review is to evaluate the paper’s quality and suitability for publication … [A]t its best, peer review is a collaborative process, where authors engage in a dialogue with peers in their field, and receive constructive support to advance their work.” (See https://authorservices.taylorandfrancis.com/publishing-your-research/peer-review/)
 For the record, it may also be worth noting that the complainant refers to journals published in 2003 and 2005 in support of his argument, while the respondent’s article is based on journals published more recently, from 2012 onwards.