Percy Morokane vs Zululand Fever

Complainant: Percy Morokane

Lodged by: Percy Morokane

Article: Bay airshow almost no-show

Author of article:  Vusi Mthalane

Date: 28 June 2013

Respondent: Zululand Fever

Complaint

Mr Percy Morokane, media officer of Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), complains about a story in the Zululand Fever, headlined Bay airshow almost no-show, published on 20 June 2013.

Morokane complains that the story misrepresented his official response and also got his name incorrect.

Analysis

The story, written by Vusi Mthalane, was about the KZN Winter Air Tour airshow that was to take place at the Richards Bay Airport and that was “almost cancelled” because of disagreements between some of the event’s stakeholders. He reported that panicking started when the municipality (a sponsor of the event) received an email saying that Air Show South Africa was not going to partake in the event without ATNS being present.

Misrepresented official response

The disputed sentence said that Morokane referred the newspaper back to the Municipality, “but (also) confirmed that they will not be part of this…event”.

Morokane says that Mthalane inquired telephonically on 19 June at 15:48 about ATNS’s participation at the airshow. “We both agreed that, after consultation with my CEO, I will provide him with an official written response.” He states that they agreed on a 24 hour deadline extension.

However, he says that he did send the reporter his response at 17:11 that same day. It read: “Kindly contact the event organizers and the Municipality for further information. We cannot deny or confirm our participation at the said event at this point in time.”

Morokane argues that the statement in dispute was damaging to ATNS’s image and reputation, and asks for a retraction and for the correct information to be published.

Zululand Fever replies that Morokane told the journalist that his company would not be at the airshow. It says: “In fact, Mr Marokane (sic) mentioned that he and his CEO were travelling overseas at the time.” The newspaper also denies that its reporter agreed to a 24 hour extension of the deadline.

Van der Walt also notes that the newspaper was a weekly and that its final deadline was at 17:00 on Wednesdays – “so there was no way possible that Vusi would have agreed to something like that”. She adds that, when Morokane’s comment arrived, its front page had already been submitted for printing.

The issue of a 24 hour extension is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that the Zululand Fever received his response after the final deadline and therefore too late for publication (I have no reason to doubt the newspaper’s word on this matter).

This leaves me with one matter only, namely the question what Morokane told the reporter.

On the one hand, Morokane’s argument sounds reasonable (why would he have confirmed ATNS’s non-attendance of the event if he still had to consult with his CEO?). On the other, however, I do not have enough justification to decide that the journalist got it wrong in this instance.

This does not leave me with an in-between, though. The fact of the matter is that Morokane’s official written response differed from the one that Mthalane reported, which means that this should be corrected in the interest of fairness (to both parties). I’ll attempt to do so below.

I welcome the fact that the newspaper has already indicated that it was prepared to publish some sort of a correction to this effect.

First name incorrect

Morokane complains that the story referred to him as “Chris Marokane”, instead of “Percy Morokane”.

The newspaper says that, when the reporter phoned Morokane’s office, he was told to call “Chris Marokane” on his cell phone.

The reason why the newspaper got Morokane’s name incorrect is not of real importance – I accept that it was a bone fide mistake. Yet, it still was a mistake and should therefore be corrected.

Finding

Misrepresented official response

There is no finding on this matter (yet fairness dictates some sort of sanction – see below) as I have no reasonable grounds to decide for either party.

First name incorrect

The use of the name “Chris Marokane” instead of “Percy Morokane” was in breach of Section 2.1 of the Press Code that states: “The press shall take care to report news … accurately…”

Sanction

Zululand Fever is directed to publish the following text:

Mr Percy Morokane, media officer of Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman about the publication of his “comment” on 20 June this year in a story headlined Bay airshow almost no-show.

The story, written by Vusi Mthalane, was about the KZN Winter Air Tour airshow that was to take place at the Richards Bay Airport and that was “almost cancelled” because of disagreements between some of the event’s stakeholders. He reported that panicking started when the municipality, which is one of the sponsors of the event, received an email saying that Air Show South Africa was not going to partake in the event without ATNS being present.

We reported that Morokane had “confirmed that they (ATNS) will not be part of this…event”. In his official written comment, though – which we received only after our deadline – he in fact said the following: “Kindly contact the event organizers and the Municipality for further information. We cannot deny or confirm our participation at the said event at this point in time.”

The Ombudsman, Johan Retief, also noted that we got Morokane’s name wrong – we called him “Chris Marokane”, instead of “Percy Morokane”.

Zululand Fever gladly puts this record straight, as directed by the Ombudsman.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.

End of text

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