Simangaliso Kubeka vs. Bayede News


Thu, May 11, 2017

Ruling by the Press Ombud

11 May 2017

This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Simangaliso Kubeka and those of Nhlanhla Mtaka, editor of the Bayede News newspaper.

Kubeka is complaining about a story in Bayede News of 26 March 2017, headlined Facebook video post.

Complaint                                            

Kubeka complains that the publication has posted graphic violence on a video clip to stir racially motivated violence, adding that the captions accompanying the video clip (loosely translated as, “She delivered a decisive blow!”, and “You can’t dictate to the heart what it wants, the heart makes its own choices.”) were instigating racially motivated violence as well.

The text

The video clip depicted scenes of what might have been a racial incident in a bank.

The arguments

Kubeka says the video clip involves two women, one black and the other white, of US origin and in America. “As it would seem this happened in the US, there really is no point in [posting] it in our social media space.”

He adds that the publication has been posting incidents of graphic violence, involving race, in an irresponsible manner ever since the Spur incident, and it encouraged similar posts from its followers.

In follow-up correspondence he states, “Bayede News has gone to great lengths in digging up old videos and reposting [them] with a caption that seeks to instigate racially motivated violence.” This, he attests, is detrimental to achieving social cohesion in South Africa’s diverse communities.

Mtaka replies that one of the most important aspects of socio-political and economic reconstruction is the ability and willingness of communities “to dialogue in the pursuit of finding meaningful and lasting solutions to existing problems”. He says the publication’s ability to bring together leaders, policymakers and academics creates opportunities for its readers. “It is against this background [that] we are taken aback by this vitriol attack on our integrity. The accusation is not only disingenuous but also cynical and undermines our readers.”

He asks why Kubeka calls Bayede News irresponsible and wishes to know how it fails to promote social cohesion.

The editor stresses that Bayede News does not reduce social ills to South African issues, or black and white problems – “rather we deal with them as societal and global challenges, thus [we] encourage frank sustainable dialogue”.

In conclusion, he invites Kubeka to air his views publicly.

Kubeka replies that his complaint is essentially about the captions, which “sought to celebrate violence unleashed by a black person to a white person”. This post, he says, did not intend to encourage a robust debate

Analysis

In his first correspondence, Kubeka’s main focus is on the video clip (and other clips which were “dug up” from the past); in his second one, his focus seems to have shifted to the captions.

Be that as it may: This office will not condone sunshine journalism. As long as incidents of racially motivated violence occur (be that locally or abroad), that long the media have the right and indeed the duty to report on them. The public would not be served if the media bury their heads in the sand.

Also: I cannot, not for one moment, see how either the video clip or the captions could have “celebrated” racial violence, or how this was irresponsible and aimed at breaking down social cohesion.

Instead, I am commending Bayede News for its reportage, and encourage the editor to continue with the good work.

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