Paintsil vs. Sunday World


Mon, Aug 7, 2017

Ruling by the Press Ombud

6 August 2017

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr John Paintsil, Kaizer Chiefs assistant coach, and those of Amos Mananyetso, deputy editor of the Sunday World newspaper.

Paintsil is complaining about a story in Sunday World of 4 June 2017, headlined Chiefs coach John Paintsil and nyatsi in money drama.

Complaint                                            

Paintsil complains that the:

·         article falsely implied that he owed Ms Lebo August money;

·         headline was misleading and false; and

·         reportage was not in the public interest, has invaded his privacy, has tarnished his dignity and reputation, and was putting strain of his personal life.

He also complains that (according to August) the article misquoted her – which I cannot entertain as Paintsil does not have the standing to complain on her behalf.

The text

The article, penned by Limakatso Khalianyane and Batlile Phaladi, said that Paintsil had been caught offside after he allegedly borrowed money from his mate, Ms Lebo August (24), and then played hide and seek when he had to settle the debt.

These allegations were reportedly made by August after the two had a major fallout due to a R3 000 loan, which she said Paintsil refused to pay back.

Paintsil reportedly denied knowing August, said the Lebo he knew was his friend and denied owing her R3 000.

The story stated, “Moments after the telephonic interview with Paintsil, August contacted our reporters and said Paintsil called and begged her to deny knowing him or having had sex with her. ‘He wanted us to chat through SMSes so that he can use it as proof when he opens a case against Sunday World,’ she said.”

The story concluded by stating the newspaper reported in the previous month that Paintsil caused havoc at his townhouse complex when he blockaded its exit gate with his car after his electricity was cut off due to his failure to pay rent.

The complaint in more detail

Paintsil says that August is unemployed and that he, in fact, gave her money. He submits, “She does not have money to give or loan to me. If she loaned me money then surely she would have a bank cash withdrawal slip.”

He also complains that a previous (fabricated) article has soured relations at his previous employer and hence cost him his job, while the article currently in dispute was putting strain of his personal life.

Sunday World responds

Mananyetso says the reporters did all they possibly could to ensure they got both sides of the story,

The journalists also verified that Paintsil and August were indeed acquainted (they acquired pictures of them at his residence and of text messages between them, and checked that the telephone numbers used in the text conversation did belong to them).

He remarks that August accused Paintsil of owing her money, which makes his demand for a bank deposit or withdrawal slip “rather perplexing” – he says ATMs or banks are not the only places where people keep or source cash.

He adds that, in one of their WhatsApp conversations, Paintsil told August that an ATM has “swallowed” his bank card – which was, according to August, why he needed to be advanced some cash.

Mananyetso adds August claimed that Paintsil paid her for sex, which was not reported as the newspaper could not verify this conclusively (amongst other sordid details of a sexual nature).

He argues that the article was in the public interest, as Paintsil was employed as coach at Kaizer Chiefs, the biggest soccer club in SA – which made him a public figure. He also argues that, due to the fact that August was not formally employed, the story was a classic David vs. Goliath one – which increased the public interest.

He says the photograph published was August’s property; she supplied it to the newspaper, and adds that Paintsil had consented to her taking the photograph.

Mananyetso says the story reported Paintsil’s denial that he knew August, but also included his explanation to this denial.

Analysis

Owing August money

I have no evidence to prove August told the newspaper that Paintsil owed her money.

However, the publication of this allegation as an allegation was justified as:

·         I accept this is what August told the journalists (she has not complained about this matter);

·         Paintsil was a public figure; and

·         the latter’s denial of this allegation was also published.

Misleading headline

The headline stated that Paintsil and “nyatsi” was in a “money drama”.

This was an accurate reflection of the story – and as the story itself was justified, so was the headline.

Invasion of privacy

The story did not report any exact private details regarding Paintsil’s residence, save to say that he lived in a townhouse in the south of Johannesburg, next to The Glen shopping mall. This description was vague enough to meet the requirements set by Section 4.5 of the Press Code.

The publication of a picture of him in his townhouse, however, is questionable as it might have invaded his privacy. In this regard I take into account that the picture itself was not contentious, and that it was provided to the newspaper by his friend.

I do not believe that the newspaper was the cause of the strain in his personal life and of any tarnishing of his dignity and reputation – the newspaper was merely the messenger, and if there were any negative effects following the article, Paintsil should not blame Sunday World for those.

Paintsil offered this office an audio recording of a conversation between him and August. However, what transpired between the two of them is of no concern to me – my only interest lies in whether the reportage was fair, justified and accurate.

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