Decision: Application for leave to appeal
Respondent: Independent Newspapers
MXit denied right to appeal against Independent Newspapers.
The Ombudsman earlier told the network that after careful consideration, he had decided not to entertain its complaint because the newspapers were not in breach of the Press Code.
“Your complaint rests on two arguments,” he said, “that the newspapers abused the MXit brand name by using it ‘without any substantiated facts’ and you believe the stories sensationalised the news; and that the stories were an ‘incorrect reporting of facts, without confirmation, to be construed as the truth by any reader’…
“In all the reports the newspapers indicated through phrases like ‘it is understood’, ‘it is believed’, and ‘Nabeela’s parents suspected’ that they were reporting what they had been told by the parents and the girl’s friends. All these devices show the reader that the newspapers are not saying it is true or it is not – they were merely reporting what they had been told.
“It is fact that the parents suspected the girl had left with people she had met on MXit. The parents’ suspicions are not a fabrication by the newspapers.
“Even if the newspapers had written the story without mentioning the brand name, chances are that, as probably the biggest social network in the country, you would still have been offended.”
The Ombudsman referred to a report in The Star the day after he had received the complaint, headlined Girls taught about responsible use of social networks, that suggested to him that MXit too was concerned about the abuse of social networks by bullies and identity thieves, among other things.
“You were teaching the girls (at Parktown Girls) the motto ‘Think before you click’. You were asking the girls to protect themselves.
“The same concern probably lay behind the newspapers’ reports and nowhere in the reports is MXit accused of any wrongdoing. The MXit brand name has not been abused.”