Gengezi Mgidlana vs. News24


Thu, Nov 9, 2017

Ruling by the Press Ombud

9 November 2017

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Gengezi Mgidlana and those of Ahmed Areff, national news editor of News24.

Mgidlana is complaining about a story in News24 of 12 October 2017, headlined ‘I’m not the only victimized whistle blower' - Holtzman to challenge Parliament dismissal.

Mgidlana complains about several “factual inaccuracies” in the “one-sided story” (details below), and adds that he was not given a right of reply.

The text

The article, written by Caryn Dolley, captured the response by Parliament’s former security head, Ms Zelda Holtzman, to her dismissal following an internal investigation the previous day.

Analysis

Mgidlana complains about the following sentences:

·         “…Holtzman, who believes she has been targeted for lifting the lid on irregularities, plans to legally challenge its decision to sack her over what she has described as ‘trumped up’ charges”;

·         “I’m not the only one who has been victimised as a result of whistle blowing”; and

·         “On Thursday she told News24 she believed the charges she faced had been purposefully trumped up ‘to put a lid on my call for an investigation into the unlawful use of blue lights by Secretary to Parliament Gengezi Mgidlana’.”

I am not going to entertain these complaints, irrespective of whether those allegations had merit or not, because:

·         Holtzman had a right to respond to her dismissal (whether she was right or wrong does not matter, and it is not for either this office or for News24 to make a decision in this regard) – the same right that News24 had to publish that response;

·         the story clearly attributed the statements in question to her and made no bland statements of fact; and

·         News24 did report on her dismissal the previous day, which gave the necessary balance to the second story.

I do not believe that News24 was obliged to ask Mgidlana for comment – parliament’s investigation into him has been in the public domain for quite some time, and it would be unrealistic to expect the media to ask him for comment each and every time his name is mentioned. I also do not believe that reporting Holtzman’s statement with regards to Mgidlana constituted “critical reportage” (given the fact that it was true that he was being investigated, inter alia for the unlawful use of blue lights). The mere reference to “blue lights” did not in any way constitute guilt on Mgidlana’s side.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

Appeal

The 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 Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief

Press Ombud