Appeal Decision: Motaung Julegka vs Sunday Sun & Daily Sun

Mon, Jul 23, 2018

In the matter of

MOTAUNG JULEGKA                                                 APPLICANT


SUNDAY SUN & DAILY SUN                                      RESPONDENT

MATTER NO: 3849/05/2018



[1]  Mrs Julegka Motaung (“applicant”) lodged a compaint with the Office of the Press Ombud in connection with an article which appeared in the Daily Sun on 6 May 2018 under the headline “CHIEF’S QUEEN TAKEDOWN”. The article said that the applicant, the wife of Mr Kaizer Motaung who is generally referred to as the owner of the soccer club Kaizer Chiefs, had been robbed and her car hijacked at her house in Bryanston.  The story said she was robbed of items valued at R2,500,000.00.  According to the Sunday Sun, that valuation is meant to include the car, a handbag and some jewellery.  The same story appeared on 7 May 2018 in the Daily Sun online.  After some protest by the applicant, the story was removed from Daily Sun’s website.

[2]  Apart from one particular complaint I deal with in paragraph 4 below, the following are some of the complaints the applicant raised:

2.1     That the applicant was not a public figure and therefore the story was intruding into her privacy;

2.2     that the word “items” could not be understood as including the value of the car stolen and that, that being the case, an impression was created that the applicant was carrying on her person jewellery, her handbag and cash to the value of R2,500,000.00; the underlining concern being that such a message would expose her to danger;

2.3     that her dignity was violated; etc.

[3]  The respondents contested all the complaints. It was argued, inter alia, that the applicant was a public figure; that the “stolen items” reportedly to the value of R2,5m included the vehicle, etc. I believe that all the complaints mentioned in paragraph 2 above were correctly dismissed by the Ombud. To make a few observations: I have no doubt that the applicant is a public figure, albeit by virtue of her association with her husband. The robbery of the wife of so public a figure as her husband at their very home and where such an expensive car was taken, was a matter of public interest; add to that the need to underline the scourge of crime in the country. I therefore need not add to the reasons given by the Ombud. One last pertinent observation: respondent’s argument that the words “stolen items,” and their value, included the vehicle (and not just cash, handbag and jewellery as argued by the applicant), had to succeed before the Ombud, technically; but it will remain for a discerning reader to judge how pathetic or otherwise the quality of that kind of journalism is.

[4]  I now return to the complaint I conveniently left out in paragraph 2 when I mentioned others. That complaint is this: whereas the robbery had taken place in January 2017, the story said that the incident happened “recently”.  This complaint is based on a statement appearing above a photograph of the applicant, together with her husband. That statement reads, with some of the letters of alphabet missing (at least on the copy I have): “occer boss Kaizer otaung and his wife Julegka, who was recently hi acked at her home.” Yet, somehow, the story itself did not mention the date of the incident, which could possibly have negated the notion of, as it were “recentness” planted by the statement above the photograph. It was on that basis that the applicant complained that the story was therefore misleading as the incident had taken place some 17 months prior to the publication of the story; that the robbery did not happen “recently”.  Despite some of the contents of the story, it is not denied by the respondent that the incident indeed happened some 17 months earlier than the report, as pointed out by the applicant.

 [5] I, for good measure, isolated the complaint that the article is inaccurate in saying that the applicant was “recently” robbed. It is because I am of the view that, on the face of it, good grounds exist for the Appeals Panel to come to a different conclusion with regard to it; for example, one is left uncomfortable that the Ombud has made no reference at all to the statement above the photo of the applicant and her husband which clearly states that the incident was recent.  I am not sure whether that statement should be ignored as if it did not exist; if it is considered, what impact, if any, would it have?  Did it or did it not create a context for the reader to think that the incident was indeed recent, given the fact that in the body of the article no date is given?  Why, if the journalist had information that the incident took place in December 2017, as it is now claimed, is there no reference at all to that date (or indeed to any date for that matter) in the body of the story?  There are other things in the article which, in relation to this complaint, do not, ex facie, add up. It would, however, be inappropriate for me to deal with the merits of this complaint  as I am inclined to grant leave to appeal; suffice it to say that the matter deserves to be considered by the Appeals Panel, as the few questions I have raised indicate; therefore:

5.1     The applicant is hereby granted leave to appeal in respect of the complaint that the article is misleading, in so far as it says the robbery was recent.

5.2     For the reasons given by the Ombud, to which I need not add, leave to appeal in respect of any other complaint is refused.

Dated this 20th day of July 2018

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel