Louis Nel vs. Netwerk24


Thu, Jun 21, 2018

Ruling by the Press Ombud

21 June 2018

PARTICULARS

 

Date of article

 

 

17 May 2018

 

Headline

 

 

KYK: Vrou vee haar alie af in koffiewinkel

 

Respondent

 

Marga Ley, internal ombud

Complaint                                            

Nel complains that Netwerk24 did not adequately warn the public of the sensitive nature of a video posted.

The text

The article was about a woman who had been refused to use a toilet in a coffee shop – upon which she promptly did her thing right there, in the open.

The arguments

Ley denies that Netwerk24 did not properly warn the public.

She argues that:

·         the first warning of the sensitive nature of the video was already in the headline; and

·         a more direct and detailed warning appeared in first sentence, which said that faeces were flying past people in a coffee shop. “The warning here cannot be more explicit. Anybody who reads or looks past these two warnings, want to see the video although they are well warned,” she says.

Nel replies that the texts Ley refers to are not explicit warnings – the first one refers to an expression to ignore someone, and the second one refers to flying faeces and makes no reference to the nudity contained in the video.

Analysis

Firstly, Netwerk24’s right to publish the story, with the video, is not in dispute. The issue, therefore, is not about freedom of speech or expression. The only question is if the publication has adequately warned the public about the content of the video.

The section of the Press Code that comes closest to a case such as this one is 9.2. It reads, “Content which depicts violent crime or other violence or explicit sex should be avoided unless the public interest dictates otherwise, in which case prominent indication and warning must be displayed indicating that such content is graphic and inappropriate for certain audiences such as children.”

It is noticeable that the Code only requires a prominent warning about graphic content in cases of “violent crime or other violence or explicit sex”. It does not make provision for nudity (there is a difference between sex and nudity, need I say?), or for indecency.

Given this situation, I cannot find that the reportage has breached the Code in any way.

It is interesting, though, that Ley does not argue along this line – she defends Netwerk24 by stating that the publication indeed has adequately warned the public.

That is debatable, as I can understand Nel’s argument as well.

However, when I have read the text for the first time, I have interpreted the headline in the context of the story itself – and I thought I was adequately warned that the video might contain content that could be offensive to some people.

Be that as it may, this issue is not decisive as I simply need to apply the Press Code in my adjudication.

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