The South African Press Council issued three rulings in December after model Joyce Molamu complained over articles about her in the Sunday Times, the Sowetan and the Sunday World. South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula had an affair with Molamu, according to the Sunday Times and News 24.
The council rejected Molamu’s complaint about the Sowetan and parts of Molamu’s complaints about the Sunday Times and the Sunday World. The council did call for minor corrections in the Sunday Times and Sunday World and for the Sunday World to apologize for claims that the council found to be fabricated. In all three cases, the council noted that Molamu was offered a chance to comment for the stories, but declined.
Interestingly, despite the council’s rulings being published in mid-December, a search of the Sunday Times and the Sunday World’s website does not produce the corrections and apologies recommended by the council. We wrote to the press council’s Johan Retief asking about this. He responded via e-mail:
“Publications normally publish in their first editions after the period for applying for leave to appeal has elapsed. In this case, take into account that the December holidays are just something of the past. We are normally lenient in such cases. I have just written to the editor, asking him to publish this Sunday.”
In the case of the Sowetan, the Press Council rejected Molamu’s complaint (see here) over the Sowetan’s Nov. 1 article “‘I never loved Fikile’ – Ex speaks on Mbalula” (see the article here). Molamu said that the article misquoted her and “published three statements without any proof or evidence” that are libelous. The council ruled that despite Molamu’s denial that she called Mbalula “just a shag,” the Sowetan reporter’s notes backed up the newspaper’s reporting and the quote sounded legitimate in context of the story.
The council dismissed Molamu’s complaint because it found that the three statements in question not only don’t defame her because of other publications’ similar reports and because the statements are “properly attributed.”
The Sunday World
Molamu complained over two articles in the Sunday World: Oct. 30 article “‘Preggy’ Lover Threatens Mbalula” and Nov. 6 article “Fikile’s Hit-and-Run Struck Before.” See the ruling on the Sunday World here.
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The council dismissed parts of her complaint, but “strongly reprimanded” the Sunday World for two other statements it found “without any apparent journalistic basis.” The council told the Sunday World to apologize to Molamu and publish the council’s ruling. The council also called for the Sunday World to correct the age of her child, but dismissed that aspect of Molamu’s complaint because the newspaper did try to verify the age and the age “is not material to the story.”
The council did uphold Molamu’s complaint over the claim in the newspaper’s Oct. 30 story that she “seduced” Mbalula, which the council ruled is a statement “without any apparent journalistic basis.” The council also decided that the Sunday World made up part of its story that claimed Molamu attempted to “blackmail” Mbalula. Because the claim had no attribution, “the only conclusion I can come to is that the journalist plucked it out of thin air. If not, the onus was on him to inform the public where this information comes from – which he has failed to do,” the council’s ruling read.
The Sunday Times
In the case of The Sunday Times’s Oct. 30 article “Sports minister shown red card for ‘playing away, ‘” (see the ruling here), the council again found that the newspaper gave the wrong age for her baby, an accurate but not “central” complaint. The council again called for a correction, but dismissed the complaint since it wasn’t an important element of the story. The Sunday Times is a “sister publication” of the Sunday World.
Molamu also complained over two claims by the Sunday Times that she said were baseless. The council rejected Molamu’s complaints, noted “that those quotes were properly attributed” and that she didn’t respond to comment.
We have written to the Sunday Times, the Sunday World and the Sowetan for comment and will update with any response.
UPDATE: 1/17/2011 9:20 AM EST: The Sowetan sent iMediaEthics this Dec. 28 article about the press council ruling in response to our request for comment.