Dear Sheik

Following a request by the United Muslim Nations International organization to bring into effect a “total ban” on the use of “highly offensive and defamatory terms such as ‘Islamist Militants’ and ‘militant Islam’”, you are asking this office to comply.

Our Public Advocate has already explained to you that the Council cannot instruct publications on issues relating to editorial content or policy, but that we merely adjudicate disputes over what has already been published.

Let me explain this in a bit more detail. Our office cannot and never will instruct any newspaper to refrain from publishing anything – that would amount to censorship. There is a vital difference between the latter (which takes place prior to publication) and regulation (which happens after publication). In our democratic society the press is at liberty to exercise its freedom of speech (read: no censorship). However, if it crosses borders in doing so, our office has a role to play (read: regulation).

Of course, this does not mean that the press has carte blanche to write what it wants to. On the contrary, with freedom comes responsibility. That is why we have a system of regulation, and a Press Code to use as a compass if and when ethical borders have been crossed.

I am therefore not able to adhere to your request.

Our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, you may apply for leave to appeal to the Chair of Appeals, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds for the application. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Kind regards