Complainant: Tabisa Ralo
Lodged by: Tabisa Ralo
Article: Wife of E Cape Cope leader suspended – Probe into allegations of travel fraud
Date: 25 June 2010
Respondent: Daily Dispatch
Ms Tabisa Ralo complains about a story in Daily Dispatch, published on June 7 2010 and headlined Wife of E Cape Cope leader suspended – Probe into allegations of travel fraud.
The complaint is that the newspaper did not publish her reply to questions concerning her alleged hiring of a private investigator (PI) to cover up for her travel claims.
The story is about the suspension of Ralo, the head of the Independent Complaints Directorate in KwaZulu-Natal and also the wife of Cope’s leader Mr Archie Ralo. The story says that she faces about eight charges of travel fraud and that a disciplinary hearing is underway. It also says that she allegedly “…had tried paying off a private investigator to testify that he had been hired by her husband to follow her around, in an attempt to cover up for her travel claims”.
Ralo says the omission of her reaction to questions concerning the alleged involvement of a PI is malicious and damaging to her reputation.
The questions posed by the reporter to Ralo read:
- “Is it true that you tried to get an East London private investigator to fabricate that he had followed you around during the times of the trips and you wanted him to say you actually went to the places you had claimed for?”; and
- “…you were willing to pay the investigator?”
Ralo denied all these allegations.
Daily Dispatch says that the reporter excluded Ralo’s above-mentioned reaction because she regarded them as “…not directly relevant to the article she was preparing”. It adds that Ralo’s response was fairly represented in the story “…as far as her response addressed the questions which were relevant to the article”.
The question is simple: Is Ralo’s denial that she neither hired nor paid a PI relevant to the story, or not?
Not only does the story devote exactly 50% of its space to the allegation about a PI, but the allegations contained therein are quite detailed – they include that the newspaper has in its possession a statement containing sworn affidavits and an e-mail communication between Ralo and a PI (he is mentioned by name).
The e-mail is even quoted in the story: “I (Ralo) need you to come (will make bookings and pay pro fees) and testify that Archie hired you to follow me in 2008 for six months (Jan-July) as he suspected that I had an affair in ICD that is why I resigned in Nkonkobe and accepted an offer in KZN. You then followed me and even had my phone tapped and the evidence you obtained during that period was that Mr… and Mr… wanted sexual favours from me and that things turned out so ugly when I refused… Let me know how you can help.”
In light of the above the newspaper’s argument that Ralo’s denial is not relevant to the story is not acceptable. Of course it is relevant, and so are the questions to this effect posed by the reporter. That is why the journalist asked these questions in the first place.
Whether Ralo’s denial is true or false is not the issue – the point is that Ralo’s reputation was harmed by the newspaper’s refusal to publish her denial.
The old ethical principle of minimum harm, maximum truth was not adhered to in this story.
The omission of Ralo’s denial of ever hiring or paying a PI is in breach of Art. 1.2 of the Press Code that states: “News shall be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by … material omissions…”.
Daily Dispatch is directed to publish this finding, together with a suitable correction. Our office should be furnished with the text prior to publication.
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 Khanyi@ombudsman.org.za.
Deputy Press Ombudsman