Tshimologo Huma vs Sunday World

Complainant: Tshimologo Huma

Article:Until knife do us part – Man slaughters his pregnant wife, and Justice delayed – Family of murdered wife seething

Date: 3 October 2012

Respondent: Sunday World

Complaint

Mr Tshimologo Huma complains about two page four stories in the Sunday World on 17 and 22 June 2012. They were headlined Until knife do us part – Man slaughters his pregnant wife, and Justice delayed – Family of murdered wife seething.

Huma complains that:

  • the story was supposed to be based on the docket (in his court case), but says that the article was fabricated and untrue;
  • neither he nor his family was consulted; and
  • the story violated his privacy and his right to a fair trial.

Analysis

The first story, written by Khethiwe Chelemu, was about a businessman (Huma) who had been accused of “brutally slaughtering his pregnant wife in cold blood”. A follow-up story, also authored by Chelemu, reported on Huma who had been beefing up his defence team with “top legal eagles” – while the deceased’s family reportedly felt that the case was proceeding at a snail’s pace.

Inaccurate, fabricated

Huma complains that parts of the story falsely reflected court documents and complains that the article was therefore fabricated and untrue.

The newspaper says that both stories were based on court proceedings and documents.

I asked both parties to provide me with these documents.

Sunday World says that the docket is part of the court documents and that its reporters was allowed only to transcribe by hand. Huma says that he has the docket in his possession – however, the documents that he sent we are mainly concerned with his bail application. There is a hand-written one-page sheet that mentions that he was charged with murder – but this cannot be the document that the newspaper used which it says contained “detailed charges” against Huma.

As I cannot obtain the relevant document (on which the newspaper based its story) I am not in a position to come to a finding regarding this matter.

Not consulted

Huma complains that the newspaper did not contact either him or his family prior to publication.

Sunday World says the matter was sub judice and that the journalist was therefore not at liberty to seek Huma’s side of the story while the court was still presiding over the matter – “lest we get into trouble of being in contempt of court”. The newspaper adds that it is obliged to report Huma’s side of the story once he testifies in court.

The newspaper is so spot-on correct that I need not argue this point at all.

Violating his privacy, right to a fair trial

Huma complains that the reporting has violated his right to privacy and to a fair trial.

The newspaper does not respond to this part of the complaint.

Sunday World could not have violated Huma’s right to privacy as the matter was in the public domain. Also, the stories did not announce his guilt, but consistently used the word “allege”. There is no way that the stories could have prevented a fair trial – and if there was, the judge would surely have raised objections by now.

Finding

Inaccurate, fabricated

There is no finding on this part of the complaint.

Not consulted

This part of the complaint is dismissed.

Violating his privacy, right to a fair trial

This part of the complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, either party 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 contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Deputy Press Ombudsman