Tristan Gouws vs. Daily Dispatch


Mon, Oct 22, 2018

Ruling by the Press Ombud

22 October 2018

Particulars

Date of article: 17 September 2018

Headline: Zwelithini chosen to enrobe E Cape

Author of article: Lulamile Feni

Respondent: Kariem Hassan, internal ombud

Complaint                                            

Mr Tristan Gouws complains that the story has mentioned King Goodwill Zwelithini’s name seven times without his title, status, or surname.

The text

The introductory sentence to the article explained what the story was about. It said: “Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been roped in to officially enrobe Western Mpondoland King Ndamase Ndamase at his coronation on October 3 at Nyandeni Great Place, near Libode.”

The arguments

Gouws says the lack of a honorific title is a sign of disrespect and degrading to the king himself, his kingdom, and everybody who respects him, including the international community.

He says: “In my general understanding whenever we write or speak about the people from royal family we always precede their name with their official status or title, e.g. king or queen, prince or princess. This include all the people in leadership positions – we precede their names with their official titles or status e.g, the President, mayor, Rev, Councillor, Bishop, Dr, etc.” (Slightly edited.)

Hassan replies that the Daily Dispatch’s style is to use titles only once in reports. “It is not intended to be disrespectful, but rather to have a fluid copy flow which is not cluttered by too many honorifics. It is the norm with all media and it does not flout the Press Code at all,” he submits.

The internal ombud adds that Feni has won numerous awards as Dispatch’s traditional affairs reporter, and has over the years stuck to its style guide. “In so doing he has never shown any disrespect to the royals he has covered,” he says.

Hassan concludes: “We have introduced him as King Goodwill Zwelithini. So it is our style that after the first mention of the individual, we only call them by their surname.  In the king’s case in most writing he has been called only by Zwelithini, rather than by his surname KaBhekuZulu or Zulu.  It has been an accepted norm. I am shocked to now hear a complaint of this nature.”

Analysis

The practice to mention somebody’s title only when that person is first mentioned in a story is an accepted journalistic practice, both in this country and internationally – irrespective of any kind of “cultural demand” to the contrary. Nowhere is it a sign of disrespect, as it is done solely for practical purposes.

In fact, I have done precisely the same during my journalistic career, including my findings as Ombud.

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