The Frankel family complained that the statement that Sidney Frankel was facing eight charges at the time of his death was false and / or misleading as Mr Frankel had never been criminally charged – and, in fact, a certificate of nolle prosequi had been issued in respect of all the charges.
The family’s attorney, Professor Billy Gundelfinger, called this reportage reckless, unprofessional and irresponsible, and submitted that it had caused the Frankel family great humiliation and embarrassment.
In his finding, the Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief, found that the statement that Frankel, at the time of his death, was “facing” eight “charges” of child molestation and sexual abuse was incorrect and unfair to his family, probably causing them some unnecessary harm. This was in breach of Section 1.1 of the Code of Ethics and Conduct which says, “The media shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly.”
The rest of the complaint was dismissed.
The Citizen regrets the inaccuracy, as criminal charges were never put to Sidney Frankel due to them having prescribed. The ombudsman found that it would have been more accurate to say that he had been facing eight civil claims, not criminal charges, at the time of his death, and the article has been amended to say this.
The Citizen apologises to the Frankel family for stating that Mr Frankel was facing (criminal) charges at the time of his death, rather than civil claims, acknowledging that this might have caused the family some unnecessary harm.
Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.