Sean Wisedale vs. TimesLive


Wed, Nov 22, 2017

Ruling by the Press Ombud

22 November 2017

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Sean Wisedale and those of Fienie Grobler, executive editor of the TimesLive publication.

Wisedale is complaining about a story in TimesLive of 1 November 2017, headlined Guard hut saga charges against Sean Wisedale withdrawn.

Complaint                                            

Wisedale complains the story incorrectly and without verification stated that he had appeared in court.

The text

The article, written by Jeff Wicks, said that charges of malicious damage to property against eminent mountaineer Sean Wisedale had been withdrawn. The allegations were that he had‚ on two separate occasions‚ “used a car to tow a wooden security hut from its base and relocate it in Bellamont Road in the plush seaside hamlet of Umdloti”. Wisedale reportedly maintained that the hut had been illegally placed.

Wicks also quoted Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane as saying that Wisedale had appeared at the Verulam Magistrates’ Court on October 27.

Analysis

Grobler says the information in dispute came from the Police, and advises that Wisedale should take up the matter with them, and not with the publication. He also provided me with a series of correspondence between Wicks and Zwane to substantiate his response.

I have no reason to believe that this correspondence is false or fabricated. Therefore, I am satisfied that Wicks did verify his information. If the information was wrong, the mistake is not with TimesLive, but with the Police. A reporter is not expected to verify his or her already properly verified information, and Wicks had no reason to suspect that it could have been wrong.

I agree with Grobler that Wisedale should take up the matter with Zwane. However, given the possibility that the latter supplied the journalist with incorrect information, my contention is that Wicks should also approach Zwane.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed.

‘Sanction’

As I have dismissed the complaint, I am not in a position to issue a sanction. However, I do believe that TimesLive should publish the fact that the Police gave it the wrong information – if indeed that was the case.

On the other hand, if it turns out that Wisedale did appear in court, I should also like to be informed accordingly.

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