Less than two weeks after the Huffington Post South Africa published a blogpost arguing for white men to be denied the vote, Huffington Post South Africa’s editor-in-chief Verashni Pillay resigned.
The Huffington Post South Africa also published an apology for posting the April 13 blogpost, noting that the press ombudsman found it to be hate speech.
The blogpost, “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?” was unpublished by Huffington Post South Africa not because of the content, which upset readers, but rather because it turned out the author, Shelley Garland, didn’t exist, as iMediaEthics reported at the time.
Pillay resigned after the press ombudsman for South Africa, Johan Retief, investigated the now-unpublished blogpost, the Huffington Post South Africa reported in its own news story about her resignation.
The ombudsman and press council in South Africa are an “independent co-regulatory mechanism” to handle complaints between the public and news publications, its website states. Members must abide by any rulings.
Retief concluded the blogpost was “discriminatory and denigratory” as well as “racist and sexist” and insisted the Huffington Post apologize.
He also criticized Pillay for her previous defense of the blogpost as accurate and comporting with feminist theory, noting poor judgment because HuffPost South Africa only removed the blogpost because the author’s identity was false.
Pillay’s Twitter account states she will be “not checking Twitter for a while, please get in touch elsewhere,” but the Facebook page she links to is closed down. iMediaEthics tweeted her for comment.
iMediaEthics has also written to Huffington Post South Africa to ask how it will prevent publishing problematic blogposts in the future, how many complaints it received over the blogpost, and if it agrees with the ombudsman’s ruling.
Retief’s full ruling is available on the press council’s website here.
Pillay stated, according to South African news site News 24,
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“I respect the office of the press ombudsman and have decided to tender my resignation. Thank you to Media24 for this opportunity and all the best to the team at HuffPost SA going forward.”
Hoaxster Wanted to test Fact Checking in South Africa
The HuffPost South Africa did end up tracking down the hoaxer who sent the Shelley Garland blogpost, identifying Centre for Development and Enterprise researcher Marius Roodt as the author. Roodt resigned from his job after being outed. The Centre’s Buhle Hlatshwayo confirmed to iMediaEthics that Roodt resigned.
“I think there is a lack of fact-checking in South African journalism. I thought, would it work? And it worked,” he told the HuffPost South Africa.
Further, Roodt commented:
“Twitter mobs amplify anger to where it doesn’t need to be and I think that’s a problem. Maybe I did raise some good points about journalism in South Africa. I’ve seen some journalists saying it should never have been published because it was a silly piece, and it was a silly piece.”
Roodt does not appear to have a Twitter or Facebook page anymore.
Hat Tip: Heat Street
UPDATED: 4/26/2017 8:34 AM EST With confirmation from the CDE that Roodt resigned.