Mr Craig Mentor and four others complain about a headline and a composite picture in the Daily Voice on 20 March 2012 with the strapline Man City Pin their faith on Carlos Tevez’s… This was followed by the headline Second Coming.
· the headline and the composite picture mocked Jesus Christ and their religion and that it amounted to blasphemy; and
· the newspaper infringed on their right to practise their religion.
The strap and the headlines were superimposed on a composite picture of Carlos Tevez and some other soccer stars. Their heads were placed on bodies dressed in clothes customarily worn during the Greek and Roman period and also, historically, by Jesus.
The Daily Voice denies that it was in error, denying that it mocked Jesus and arguing that the picture portrayed a scene “typical of renaissance painters’ depiction of biblical scenes”. It adds that the article did not contain any reference to Scriptures, but deals with “the woes of the beleaguered Manchester City Football Club, whose fans have suffered from infighting between the manager and certain players, which left Tevez benched for dissent”.
The issue for consideration is whether the use of the picture and the headline are protected by the Press Code. More specifically, Section 6.1 of the Code states: “The press should avoid discriminatory or denigratory references to people’s…religion…except where it is relevant to the matter reported.”
Clearly, the composite picture and the headline intentionally had a dual meaning. The first and obvious meaning was that soccer star Tevez, who had been benched, was to make a comeback that would fundamentally change the fortune of the club; the Second Coming is a well-known Christian belief which portrays the same meaning – emphasising an epic intervention to remedy club’s continued downward slide.
In this context it cannot be inferred that the intention was to mock or undermine the sensitivities of a religious group, neither do I interpret the headline and picture to mock Jesus or to make a fool of him.
One complainant says that the newspaper attacks his right to practise his religion.
He does not motivate this statement, and it is unclear how it is possible that the reportage can have this effect.
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.