The publisher of the Sunday Sun has apologised for hurting “some people’s feelings,” but not for actually publishing the controversial Jon Qwelane column.

In the August 3 edition of the newspaper Deon Du Plessis wrote about Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe’s ruling that the Sunday Sun broke portions of the Press Code in publishing the homophobic article and must apologise.

While Du Plessis said in the apology letter, “…I’m sorry that we sinned against the code… And I regret that the uproar clearly hurt some people’s feelings. That is not our mission,” he did not actually apologise for publishing the article.

Du Plessis also added that he believed the column actually had a positive result, suggesting that it played a role in “reducing the angry confrontations of the past, and turning them into debates instead.”

He further emphasised the ombudsman’s decision that while the column denigrated homosexuals, it did not equate to hate speech and did not incite violence against homosexuals.

Speaking to Beeld, Thloloe said that the apology was good enough for him: “I am very satisfied with the apology.”

That will not surprise those who have sent written appeals to Thloloe’s original July 29 ruling: A number of complainants say that Thloloe should have recused himself as, according to previous columns by Qwelane, he is a “close friend and colleague” of the writer.

The ruling allowed a seven day period in which to apply for leave to appeal to the chairperson of the Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman, and many have taken the opportunity to do so.

Further concerns with the ruling include the fact that it did not recommend any sanction against Qwelane himself and that it did not take into account the context of the recent spate of deadly hate crimes against lesbians around the country.

In her appeal sent to the press ombudsman’s office, Louise Reardon, creator of the 3000 strong Facebook group ‘APPALLING homophobia in our midst,’ described the ruling as “biased and watered-down.”

“The press ombudsman stated that Qwelane did not advocate hatred in his column, how can this possibly be when he supports the views of Robert Mugabe’s hatred of homosexuality and incitement of harm towards them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission (HRC) Media Spokesperson Vincent Moaga told Mambaonline that the commission had not yet made a finding on the complaints that it had received about the column. He also said that the HRC was studying the press ombudsman’s ruling, but refused to comment whether it would have any impact on the commission’s own findings.

Qwelane’s July 20 article, titled Call me names, but gay is NOT okay…, equated homosexuality with bestiality, praised Robert Mugabe’s oppression of gays and lesbians and encouraged the removal of the sexual-orientation equality clause from the constitution.

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