Kiren Naidoo vs Sunday Times

Complainant: Kiren Naidoo

Lodged by: Kiren Naidoo

Article: Hot drumsticks on Champions Trophy menu

Date: 28 June 2013

Respondent: Sunday Times

Complaint

Mr Kiren Naidoo complains about Telford Vice’s column in the Sunday Times headlined Hot drumsticks on Champions Trophy menu on 9 June 2013.

Naidoo complains that the column was offensive and racist.

Analysis

The column was about the opening ceremony of the Champions’ Trophy (an international cricket competition) in Cardiff. The columnist quoted a front page headline of the Daily Express (in Britain) that read: We must stop the migrant invasion. The columnist added: “The SA team might have agreed when they took in the almost exclusively Indian flavor of the crowd.”

Offensive, racist

Naidoo says that the above-mentioned statements were “highly offensive, if not outright racist”. He argues that the remark about the South African team suggested that the team, shared this “virulent” view (and that it represented the views of the journalist as well as the newspaper).

He adds:

  • “Suggesting that you are being humorous or ironic is no defence. Racism is not a laughing matter. What is wrong with the ‘exclusively Indian flavour to the crowd’?”; and
  • “For a white South African to criticize migration suggests that you do not know the meaning of the word irony, nullifying whatever excuse you might use.”

The Sunday Times replies that the item appeared in a column on a sport page and says that it “was a tongue-in-cheek comment on the huge numbers of fans who turned out to support India in its game against South Africa”. The newspaper denies that the column implied that the South African team endorsed the Daily Express’s view.

In his response to the newspaper’s argument Naidoo mentions that there was tension between the English and migrants to that country (especially after the horrific murder of soldier Lee Rigby in a public street). “This is why any reference to ‘migrants’ and ‘invasion’ in the current climate is problematic,” he argues.

Racist

There are many definitions of racism. A common threat, though, is the conviction that one group is inferior to another (sometimes, this is accompanied by hatred).

I cannot find any trace of such an implication in the disputed parts.

Offensive

Given the context in Britain, as explained by Naidoo, it may (or may not) be that many people of Indian origin would have been offended by the Daily Express’s headline.

Be that as it may, this context refers to Britain and not to South Africa.

I also take into account that the column did not state it as fact that the SA team had agreed with the headline, but merely that they “might have agreed”.

General

Given the above, I do not believe that the newspaper has implied that it, or its journalist, or the SA team was racist or offensive towards people of Indian origin. I therefore cannot conclude that its reportage advanced any such negative views.

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