Press council dismisses plagiarism, right of reply complaint - iMediaEthics

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South Africa’s Daily Maverick was accused earlier this year of plagiarism and not contacting the subject of a news story, Kruger National Park, before publication.

The Kruger National Park’s general manager Isaac Phaahla complained to the South Africa Press Council over the Feb. 2019 article, “Parliament slams Kruger Park for defying directive not to sign agreement with neighbours.”

Phaahla claimed that the Daily Maverick‘s reporter, Don Pinnock, wasn’t at a Parliamentary hearing and claimed that Pinnock plagiarized because he quoted Pinnock even though he didn’t get a quote from Pinnock but published one. The press council’s ombudsman, Johan Retief, dismissed the complaint in full though. (Retief has since left the South African Press Council, as iMediaEthics has reported, and been replaced.)

iMediaEthics has written to Phaahla and Pinnock. Pinnock told iMediaEthics the process seemed fair. Phaahla told iMediaEthics, “We don’t have any comment except we still maintain the article in Daily Maverick was flawed. The Ombud acted on information at hand and we were not able to prove our case successfully.”

Pinnock however told the council he went to the hearings in question and reported from the hearings. He denied the plagiarism, explaining another journalist, Elise Tempelhoff of Beeld, obtained the quote from Phaahla and provided to him. He noted that in his article he said Phaahla “told a journalist” the quote; he just didn’t note which journalist. “First prize would have been if Isaac made the comment to me. But failing that, I do not think it unethical to use information from another journalist whose integrity I trust and who gave me her permission,” he told the council.

In response, Phaahla denied his comment to Tempelhoff was for publication.

However, the council agreed it was fine for Pinnock to report the Phaahla quote attributed to a journalist, and “the fact that he did not mention Tempelhoff’s name is neither here nor there.” It also wasn’t “Pinnock’s fault” for reporting the quote given, whether Phaahla wanted it published or not.

The council didn’t decide the matter of whether Pinnock attended the hearing, but decided to accept Pinnock did based on his “quite extensive reporting.”

Regardless, the council found that Pinnock didn’t even have to contact Phaahla for comment for the story since he was reporting on a hearing. “I also accept that Pinnock was under no obligation to give Phaahla a right of reply in the first place – it is not journalistic practice to ask for comment when reporting on a Parliamentary meeting such as this one, where both parties had a chance to say their say at the meeting,” the council ruled.

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Press council dismisses plagiarism, right of reply complaint

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