3 minute read
24 Aug 2013
1:19 pm

Newspapers ordered to apologise to Pistorius

The press ombudsman on Saturday ordered Rapport and its sister publication City Press to publish an apology for causing unnecessary harm to paralympian Oscar Pistorius.

FILE PICTURE: Oscar Pistorius, pictured at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria, on June 4, 2013. Pistorius returns to court on Monday, when prosecutors will indict him for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and confirm a trial date.

The two newspapers were also ordered to issue corrections on a story they published on June 30 which alleged that Pistorius was seen at a car dealership with a woman buying an Audi R8, Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said. The newspapers reported that Pistorius was brash and demanding while at the dealership.

It was reported that he was accompanied by bodyguards and a beautiful woman and insinuated that she may have been his girlfriend. Pistorius is currently facing murder charges following the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14. The articles appeared on City Press’s front page and on page three of the Rapport and on Rapport’s website.

Retief said there were two separate judgements for the papers, as the story that appeared in the City Press was slightly different to Rapport’s version. City Press had omitted some aspects as it adapted the story from the Afrikaans article written by Rapport.

Retief found that the uncertainty of the model of the car Pistorius was alleged to have bought was no longer reflected in the headline. The opening paragraph of the City Press report also appeared to be a statement of fact. A mistake appeared in the article where it was stated that two employees “when called” confirmed certain detail, whereas these sources were not called, but personally interviewed.

The Rapport journalist, who wrote the original article quoted an anonymous person who was at the dealership when Pistorius was alleged to have been there. He quoted another two anonymous people who said they were “close to the dealership” after dealership management refused to comment.

The newspaper also spoke to Annelise Burgess, the Pistorius’s spokeswoman, before publishing the reporting. The paper reported that Burgess initially said Pistorius had gone to the dealership to buy the R8 vehicle for his uncle.

In a written response she later sent to the journalist, she stated that Pistorius had been at the dealership to buy himself a second-hand Sedan. The journalist emailed Burgess, asking her to clarify the different versions. She telephonically explained that she had misunderstood Pistorius’s uncle, Arnold, when he told her that Pistorius had simply been assisting him with paperwork for the R8 as he had wanted to purchase the vehicle.

Pistorius visited the dealership twice, once to buy himself a the second-hand vehicle, and secondly to assist his uncle. Retief found that Pistorius had bought himself a used Sedan which was not as fast as an Audi R8. It was later established that the woman who had been seen with Pistorius was his cousin.

The man who the papers reported was Pistorius’s bodyguard was his brother, Carl. Retief ruled that the papers had used a headline and picture which was unfair to Pistorius. The headline read: “Oscar takes beautiful young woman to see his racy R1.5m Audi R8.” The papers also published a picture of a new Audi R8 sports car, with a picture of Pistorius superimposed on it.

Retief dismissed claims brought by Pistorius, his family and Burgess that the newspapers had failed to verify its information and ignored the information they supplied to the paper. He ruled that the papers were justified in publishing the allegations as allegations, as that was the information they had at their disposal at the time of publication. “The report was misleading, but not deliberately so,” he said.