Morné Morris vs. Beeld


Tue, Jan 16, 2018

 

Ruling by the Press Ombud

16 January 2018

 

PARTICULARS

 

Complainant

 

Mr Morné Morris

 

Publication

 

Beeld

 

Date of article

 

16 January 2018

 

Poster

 

Hof sê skool is vol, so basta

 

Respondent

 

Marga Ley, Beeld’s internal ombud

Complaint; arguments                                            

Morris complains that the poster was abusive and vulgar as it in fact told students to “voetsek”. He adds that this message was dividing the country and did not assist the debate on how to accommodate all learners.

Ley denies that the poster was abusive or vulgar. She says the HAT (Handwoordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal) describes “basta” as meaning, “genoeg” (“enough”), or “klaar” (“finished”).

She adds that a mother who tells her child she is done talking (and “basta”), will not consider that child a dog or a vagrant.

Morris replies that the word “basta” also had a racial connotation as it was aimed at black people, and adds that it invoked hatred. “[What Beeld] meant is get the ‘f’ out,” he says.

Morris also says the context in which the word was used has made it vulgar, and argues that one should not only take into consideration how a dictionary defines the term. “You only use that word when you have no respect for the individual. You would use that word for a vagrant that is going through your rubbish or to a dog that does not belong on your property,” he says.

Analysis

I appreciate Morris’s concern, but I cannot share his opinion. The word “basta” certainly is not synonymous with “voertsek” – if it were, I would have agreed with him. But “basta” means what Ley says it means, and not what Morris purports it to signify.

In other words, the poster merely said, “The court says the school is full – and that is the end of the matter.” That is exactly what “basta” means in normal parlance – “finish and klaar”.

The poster was therefore not abusive, vulgar, racist, divisive or disrespectful against anybody.

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