/ 21 November 2011

‘Confusion’ complaint against Cape Times dismissed

The press ombudsman has dismissed a complaint made by ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga about a story published in the Cape Times newspaper about the Protection of State Information Bill.

Motshekga complained about a story in the newspaper, published on September 29, headlined: “Confusion reigns — Officials say ANC Bill move is ‘bizarre’,”.

Deputy press ombud Johan Retief explained on Monday that in a written complaint, Motshekga said the newspaper did not seek the views of the ANC and the reference to “confusion” in both the story and the headline was inaccurate and untruthful.

The Cape Times reported that confusion reigned supreme in Parliament after the ANC surprised “everyone” by announcing a unilateral public consultation process on the controversial Bill.

This decision, following months of consultations by the multiparty ad hoc committee that processed the Bill, had raised questions about procedure.

The report quoted sources who reportedly described the move as “unprecedented” and “bizarre”.

Nothing wrong with ‘confusion’
The story says that the ANC planned to hold public meetings across the country to hear people’s views on the Bill but that it has not as yet provided details of when and where these will take place and whether they will be open to all.

In reply to Motshekga’s accusations, the newspaper said its reporter did ask for the ANC’s view for a story published the day before and had asked Motshekga how the consultation process would work in practice, said Retief.

The reporter said Motshekga told him that he was not willing to engage the media on the matter as this would “pre-empt the process”. This was reported in his first story.

Retief said that even though the story did not spell out exactly what the confusion was about, the reporter did not state it as fact that there was “confusion”. He had quoted a source who reportedly said the ANC was “confusing everybody”.

“The source had a right to that opinion and the newspaper had a right to report that opinion,” said Retief.

There was also nothing wrong with using “confusion” in the headline because it was reflected in the story. — Sapa