Melomed Hospital vs Daily Sun

Complainant: Melomed Hospital

Lodged by: R. Alli

Aarticle: Let me in or I’ll die! and sub-headlined Bleeding man’s cry at private hospital gates!

Date: 21 June 2010

Respondent: Daily Sun

Complaint
Melomed Hospital complains about an article in Daily Sun, dated May 27, 2009, headlined Let me in or I’ll die! and sub-headlined Bleeding man’s cry at private hospital gates!
Allie says the newspaper failed, neglected or refused to report the hospital’s version of the events.
Analysis
The story is about a stabbed man, Mr Lucky Kencele, who reportedly was kept waiting for about 15 minutes in front of the main gate of Melomed Gatesville (Private) Hospital, begging to be let in.
A journalist of the Daily Sun, Ntomboxolo Makoba, says she saw what happened. According to her, a security guard first refused to let the man in because he did not have medical aid. She also says she heard that Kencele was told to go to a government hospital, which he refused to do. The man was eventually let into Melomed Hospital.
All of this is reflected in the story.
Prior to publication, Makoba provided the hospital with a list of questions. Responding to some of these questions, Melomed says the security guard denied that he had enquired about Kencele’s medical aid and also that he had told Kencele to go to a state hospital.
This part of Melomed’s response was not published.
Daily Sun argues: “…we did incorporate the response from the hospital’s spokesperson, Allison Davids, but we were under no obligation to publish her whole response. We published that which was critical to the focus of the story.”
It is indeed common journalistic practice to pick out elements that are material to the story. The question, therefore, is if important elements of the hospital’s response were omitted.
Clearly, the part that was omitted was material to the story – the allegations reflected badly on Melomed and its official response on these issues mattered.
If must be said that Makoba may have been correct – from CCTV evidence of the incident it is clear that about ten minutes elapsed since Kencele was discovered at the gate and his admittance; also that several discussions between a security guard and Kencele took place during that time. Unfortunately there was no sound available, making it impossible to establish what exactly had been said. However, from the time that it took for Kencele to be let in, it is reasonable to deduce that there was a problem of some sorts – under normal circumstances an injured man would have been admitted promptly.
Nevertheless, even if it is reasonable to believe the journalist rather than the guard, the newspaper still had a duty to report Melomed’s official response.
Finding
The complaint is upheld as Daily Sun did not publish the hospital’s official denial that Kencele was asked about his medical aid and that he was told to go to a state hospital. This is found to be in breach of Art. 1.2: “News shall be presented in…a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by…material omissions…”
Sanction
Daily Sun is reprimanded for omitting an important part of Melomed’s official response and directed to publish a summary of this finding. Our office should be furnished with the text prior to publication.
Appeal
Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, anyone of the parties 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 reached at khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.
Johan Retief
Deputy Press Ombudsman