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The struggle for press self-regulation in contemporary South Africa: charting a - page 22 / 51





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the requirement to be accurate by claiming someone else has done the job for it. It does seem to be petulant and unbecoming to be pointing to Chikane’s statement to SAPA and to The Star.” He further chastised the paper for its argument that the complaint had been delayed. He explained the various stages it had gone through, adding with vehemence: “This system is not about bureaucracy – it is about ‘excellence in journalistic practice and ethics’. It tries to answer the question Did we get the story right?” His finding was that “it was not true that the ANC had chastised and gagged Chikane”, and the paper was cautioned and instructed to carry an apology to be provided by his office.

The second decision concerning Chikane, but also of wider political relevance was announced on August 6, and concerned a claim that this Mbeki aide had urged his principal to concede defeat in the leadership contest with Zuma. In this, The Times newspaper lost the case, with the ruling attacking the article concerned as having failed to cite additional direct eyewitnesses to the alleged discussion by Chikane on the matter,  or to corroborate the claims of the unnamed source of the story. Going further, the Ombudsman’s statement declared: “This is another example of the reckless use of anonymous sources.” He added: “It is particularly when the environment is volatile and tempers are high that journalists should take extra care in their writing. The newspaper should have anticipated that Mbeki supporters would be angry with Chikane – as they were - after reading the story and [should have – GB] checked it rigorously before putting it out to the public.” Thloloe thus found that The Times violated the Press Code twice: Paragraph 1.1 in that it did not check if its story was truthful, accurate and fair; and Paragraph 1.5 in that it did not seek Chikane’s views before publication. It dismissed as disingenuous the paper’s argument that “Chikane has rejected the publication’s offer of space for a letter to the editor putting his side of the story”. In the ruling’s words: “The code is clear: ‘A publication should make amends for publishing information …that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.’ The code does not throw the ball back into the offended subject’s court.”

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