Ruling by the Press Ombudsman

Ruling by the Press Ombudsman

Ruling by the Press Ombudsman

Ruling by the Press Ombudsman October 15, 2013

This ruling is based on the written submissions of the attorneys of Mr Zamani Letjane of the Akani Retirement Fund Administrators, and Mr Allan Greenblo of Today’s Trustee magazine (TT).

Complaint

Letjane complains about a box in the March – May 2013 edition of Today’s Trustee, headlined Last rites. This formed part of an article headlined The IRF should RIP – Trustees need a representative voice. They deserve better than the so-called Institute of Retirement Funds. He also complains about a “correction” that was published in the September – November 2013 edition, headlined If truth be told.

He complains that the:

- statement in the first article that he and/or Akani Retirement Fund Administrators was/were under investigation in Swaziland was/were factually incorrect and misleading; and
- correction published in a later edition was insufficient.

Analysis

The article, written by Allan Greenblo, was about the Institute of Retirement Funds (IRF), and focused largely on its alleged inactivity and ineffectiveness. Under Last Rites Letjane and Akani were said to have been under investigation in Swaziland.
The “correction” appeared in a form of a letter by Letjane’s attorneys in which his views were published, as well as some comments about the matter by the magazine.

‘Under investigation’

Letjane complains that the statement that he and/or Akani Retirement Fund Administrators (ARFA) was/were under investigation in Swaziland was factually incorrect and misleading. He says that the company in question was in fact Akani Swaziland Retirement Fund Administrators, and adds that neither he nor the ARFA was the subject of an investigation.

TT does not deny that the statement was incorrect, and in fact published Letjane’s views in a subsequent edition.

I therefore accept that the statement was false, and that it needs or needed some sort of correction. As the latter also complains about this “correction”, I have to establish if that text was sufficient or not.

Correction insufficient

Letjane complains that the correction was not sufficient – he says that it was incumbent on the magazine to not only publish his views, but indeed also to correct the record. He argues: “Instead of correcting the record, the Today’s Trustee rationalized why it published the wrong facts in the first place.”

TT says that the correction “fully contained the relevant comments (by Letjane’s attorneys)…comprehensively setting out Mr Letjane’s side of the story inclusive of his objections, as well as their contextualization and the TT response as previously recorded in my communications… This was done in good faith i.e. with TT not having questioned the veracity of Mr Letjane’s statements in regard to the Swaziland investigation.”

The publication concludes that neither a correction nor an apology are therefore justified.

Letjane’s attorneys reply that the TT’s “repeated allegations are mischievous and designed to cast aspirations on the good name of Akani Retirement Fund Administrations and Mr Zamani Letjane”.

I take TT’s argument seriously that it did set out Letjane’s side of the story, and that it did not question the veracity of his statements. This is to be commended. The question, however, is if this was sufficient.

I do not think so, as (a) the publication of Letjane’s view on the matter does not imply that the magazine has admitted that it had made a mistake (as it should have); and (b) the lack of questioning the veracity of his statements is not equal to the acceptance of the truth thereof.

Therefore, I do not believe that the magazine adhered to Section 2.6 of the Press Code (see below). In this process, TT has caused Lethane unnecessary harm – which not only calls for a correction, but also for an apology.

Finding

Today’s Trustee is in breach of Section 2.6 of the Press Code that states: “A publication shall make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.”

Sanction

Today’s Trustee is:

- cautioned for not properly making amends by publishing information that was found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation; and
- directed to publish the text below in its next edition.

Beginning of text

In our edition of March – May 2013 we incorrectly stated that Mr Zamani Letjane and Akani Retirement Fund Administrators had been under investigation in Swaziland. His attorneys pointed this out to us, and we duly published his view in a later edition.

However, Letjane lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman, arguing that this was not sufficient as it was incumbent on us to not only publish his views, but indeed also to correct the record. He argued: “Instead of correcting the record, the Today’s Trustee rationalized why it published the wrong facts in the first place.”

The Ombudsman, Johan Retief, remarked: “I take TT’s argument seriously that it did set out Letjane’s side of the story, and that it did not question the veracity of his statements. This is to be commended. The question, however, is if this was sufficient.

“I do not think so, as (a) the publication of Letjane’s view on the matter does not imply that the magazine has admitted that it had made a mistake (as it should have); and (b) the lack of questioning the veracity of his statements is not equal to the acceptance of the truth thereof.”

He cautioned us for being in breach of Section 2.6 of the Press Code that states: “A publication shall make amends for publishing information or comment that is found to be inaccurate by printing, promptly and with appropriate prominence, a retraction, correction or explanation.”

We hereby accept that we wrongly reported that Letjane and Akani Retirement Fund Administrators had been under investigation in Swaziland, and that we have caused him unnecessary harm by this reportage. We do regret this mistake.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.

End of text

Appeal

Our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Adjudication Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombudsman

Article from :http://www.presscouncil.org.za/Ruling/View/zamani-letjane-vs-todays-trus...