Appeal Decision: Rapport vs Pretorius Elizabeth

Mon, May 24, 2021

In the matter of

RAPPORT                                                                                                            APPLICANT


PRETORIUS ELIZABETH                                                                             RESPONDENT

MATTER NO: 8829/03/2021


  1. Ms Elizabeth Pretorius (“respondent”) lodged a complaint against Rapport (“applicant”) against the headline of an article published on 21 February 2021. The headline read “Rugby is saaier as TV sonder Tieties.” In his Ruling dated 13 April 2021, the Press Ombud says that the respondent “complains that the use of the word “tieties (tits) … in the headline was disrespectful, insulting and archaic.” He went on to state that the complaint was based on clause 5.1 of the Code.
  2. In its defence, the applicant contended that the word was neither disrespectful nor demeaning to women. Applicant went so far as to employ the services of a linguistic expert about the word “tieties” and what was conveyed in the context in which it was used. And what was the context? The Ombud puts it this way: “In his piece, the journalist expresses his view that rugby has lost its attraction. He compares this to the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’.” Paraphrasing the journalist, the Ombud says that what the journalist conveys is that “rugby has become a TV programme, just like ‘Game of Thrones – but importantly, unlike that programme, there are no ‘tieties’ in rugby. ‘Tieties” are also boring when they became predicable.”
  3. In his Ruling, the Ombud found that the headline was in breach of clause 5.1 of the Press Code; which states: “The media shall avoid discriminating or denigratory references to people’s … gender, sex .….“ Then follows exceptions which are not applicable to this case. He then imposed a sanction. The applicant is now seeking leave to appeal the Ruling.
  4. The first observation I make is that I am baffled why the parties submitted so much documentation about so simple and straightforward a matter. The context in which the word was used was particularly telling. The clear message is that the “tieties” would enliven things, or make things interesting. This is a reference to a woman’s body in the context and sense that the game would no longer be boring. I think it is denegrading to women and turn them into objects. The research done by the applicant’s linguistic expert might be helpful, but the problem for the applicant is the clear context in which the word was used. “Tieties” are cast as possible instrument to make the game of rugby interesting, this of course, being by parity of reasoning in relation to the TV programme.
  5. The application for leave to appeal does not take the applicant’s any further. There is one point therein raised which I must address though. The fact that the respondent did not specifically cite or rely on clause 5.1 is of  no moment. As the respondent correctly puts it, almost all the complainants are non-lawyers. What is important is that the substance of the complaint was, firstly, very clear and secondly, consistent throughout. There could not have been any moment that the applicant could have reasonable been uncertain as to the nature and substance of the complaint.
  6. For the reasons given by the Ombud and those above, I am satisfied that the applicant has no reasonable prospects of success on appeal. The application is therefore turned down.

Dated this 24th day of May 2021

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel