2 minute read
5 Sep 2014
4:54 pm

Times newspaper must apologise to SAA

The Press Ombudsman on Friday ordered The Times newspaper to publish an apology to South African Airways (SAA).

FILE PICTURE: A pile of newspapers, with a copy of The Times on top. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Lauren Mulligan)

This comes after the newspaper published an article in July, claiming that a 12-year-old boy was left in the care of a stranger at Hong Kong airport by an SAA representative.

The airline was reportedly requested by the boy’s mother to escort the boy on and off an SAA aircraft flying from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, through immigration and then to her.

However, the newspaper reported that the boy “was left alone on a bench with an ‘unoccupied minor’ tag around his neck for almost five hours, until 4am”.

A “concerned passenger” then took care of the child for the next two days, and no one from SAA checked up on him.

This was because the boy followed the passenger, as he claimed that a SAA employee had told him to do.

The airline, which laid a complaint with the ombudsman, claimed that the article was factually inaccurate and unbalanced, that allegations in the article were presented as fact and that the headline and the sub-heading were misleading.

SAA said the boy arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on an Asiana Airlines flight, and was booked on a connecting SAA flight to Johannesburg.

However, the Asiana flight was delayed and it was the responsibility of Asiana Airlines to ensure that passengers, including minors, did not miss their connecting flights.

SAA said the Asiana airline approached SAA’s counters with the boy, but was informed by representatives that the counter was closed, that the flight was cancelled and that SAA would only be able to accept the boy as a passenger once an alternative flight had been sourced.

Asiana Airlines, who did not dispute that the boy was not left in SAA’s care, was therefore responsible for the boy’s safety at that time.

SAA complained that The Times’ article was inaccurate and unfair as it focused mainly on the testimony of the mother and her child, and that only a portion of SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali’s comments were reported at the end of the article.

While the newspaper alleged that SAA’s side of the story was only known a week after the story was published, the airline said, in an e-mail to the reporter, Tlali provided an explanation regarding the ordeal four days before the article was published.

The Times was ordered to

— apologise to SAA for its unfair reportage which had led to the unnecessary tarnishing of its reputation;

— publish a summary of the ombudsman’s arguments and finding, together with this apology, on the same page and with the same prominence as the story in question;

— specifically include in this text a summary of the background to the incident, as supplied by the SAA and described above; and

— end the text with the words: “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.”

The newspaper was also directed to publish this text on its website.