Buti Manamela vs Business Day

Complainant: Buti Manamela

Lodged by: Buti Manamela

Article: Malema’s political losses turn into Manamela’s gain

Author of article:  Sam Mkokeli

Date: 15 June 2013

Respondent: Business Day

Complaint

Mr Buti Manamela complains about a story in Business Day on 15 April 2013, headlined Malema’s political losses turn into Manamela’s gain.

He complains that the:

  • reporter used his quotes in a “completely” different context, which rendered them malicious and defamatory;
  • opinion of the journalist was presented in a news section, under “politics”;
  • article raised and commented on issues that are based on opinion and not on fact; and
  • reporter did not ask him to respond to the issue of him benefitting from the political demise of Mr Julius Malema.

Analysis

The article, written by Sam Mkokeli, said that Manamela and the YCL stood to benefit from the political demise of Mr Julius Malema – although Manamela may not have enjoyed limitless support in his own party.

Different context

Manamela complains that Mkokeli used his quotes (based on an interview with him) in a “completely” different context, which rendered them malicious and defamatory.

BD says the article was a “friendly interview” and it could not discern any sign of malice or mischief in it, at there was nothing in the text that could have defamed him “even remotely”.

I asked exactly what he meant by a different context, but no response was forthcoming. I therefore am not going to entertain this part of the complaint.

Opinion of journalist

Manamela complains that Mkokeli’s opinion was presented in a news section, under the heading “politics”.

BD says that regular readers would have known that the article was not a news story or a piece of straight reporting:

  • from the size of the text;
  • from its typographical treatment; and
  • because the strap above the headlines ended with the words “…writes Sam Mkokeli”.

The editor adds: “Between ourselves we call it a ‘scene’ in which a reporter is required to bring his or her experience to bear on a subject and which, almost by definition, requires some degree of comment and/or analysis.”

I agree with the newspaper’s argument. Besides, the nature of the text is such that no reasonable reader would have interpreted it as a news story (even though it appeared in a news section).

Comment not based on fact

Manamela complains that the article raised and commented on issues that were based on opinion and not on fact.

I asked for clarification, and again no response was forthcoming.

Not asked to respond

Manamela complains that Mkokeli did not ask him to respond to the issue of him benefitting from the political demise of Malema.

The editor replies: “For my part, I think the political editor was entitled to draw that conclusion. It isn’t as if he was accusing Buti of plotting Malema’s demise, or of being actively engaged in it. He merely suggests, drawing on his experience, that Buti was somehow strengthened by it.”

This argument is convincing.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

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 Chairperson of the SA Press Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman