Two South African news sites claimed an anti-corruption activist was arrested for drunk driving and impersonating a police officer. Problem is he wasn’t arrested, and the two news sites — the Daily Voice and IOL — mixed up two people.
In a June 20 apology, the sites explained that someone with the name Colin Arendse had indeed been arrested but they mistakenly assumed he was the African National Congress activist by the same name. Even worse for the Daily Voice and IOL, the activist denied the allegations before publication but the article was published anyway. iMediaEthics has written to Arendse via Facebook to ask what he told the news sites in his denial. We’ve also asked the IOL and Daily Voice why they ignored Arendse’s denial and published the claims anyway.
The activist Arendse threatened a defamation lawsuit over the article, and the Daily Voice and IOL paid him an undisclosed amount to settle, the apology states. The Daily Voice is a Cape Town-based tabloid newspaper. IOL is a website owned by Independent Media.
The apology reads in full:
“On May 16, 2017, the Daily Voice and IOL published an article in which Colin Arendse, a well-known Cape Town anti-corruption activist, was alleged to have been arrested for drunk driving and other offences, including impersonating a police officer.
“It was also alleged in the article that Mr Arendse had pending cases of domestic violence against him.
“The article was based entirely on an incorrect assumption, made by the journalist, that the person actually arrested (also named Colin Arendse but unrelated to the ANC activist) was the ANC activist and was published erroneously, without being verified for accuracy, and regardless of the fact that Mr Arendse gave a comprehensive response before publication to alert the newspaper to the error.
Mr Arendse subsequently made a claim against the Daily Voice and IOL for defamation arising from the publication of the article.
The Daily Voice and IOL have settled with Mr Arendse by paying him compensation (an amount that the parties agreed to keep confidential) and hereby apologise unreservedly to him for the publication of this article, which we accept was defamatory of him, and for any harm which it caused him, and assure him of the high esteem in which he is held.