The board of Joburg Pride has officially lodged an appeal against Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe’s ruling on the Jon Qwelane article published by the Sunday Sun on July 20.
The letter was sent to Judge Ralph Zulman of the Press Appeals Panel on Tuesday, the last day allowed for leave to appeal by Thloloe in his July 29 ruling on the homophobic article.
In his decision, Thloloe had ordered the newspaper to apologise for breaking elements of the Press Code and for denigrating gays and lesbians. He however said that the column did not constitute hate speech.
The board not only took issue with elements of his decision, but was particularly incensed by what it called the “half-hearted” and “unacceptable” apology issued by the Sunday Sun’s publisher Deon Du Plessis last Sunday.
Thloloe reportedly told Beeld newspaper that he was satisfied with Deon Du Plessis’s apology.
Below is the full text of the letter sent to Judge Zulman by the Joburg Pride board.
APPEAL : RULING AGAINST THE SUNDAY SUN
The board of Joburg Gay Pride Festival recently lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman regarding the publication in the Sunday Sun dated 20 July 2008 of the column ‘Call me names, but gay is NOT ok’ written by Jon Qwelane.
In the Ombudsman’s response he advised that the newspaper would publish an apology which he would draft. He also stated he did not find that the publication amounted to hate speech, nor that he believed it would incite violence against LGBT persons.
Joburg Pride has decided to appeal against the ruling, for the following reasons:
1. The ‘apology’ finally published by the Sunday Sun was not in the spirit of reconciliation, as it did not apologise for disparaging LGBT people, but merely for ‘upsetting some people’ and contravening the Press Code.
2. The apology was not drafted by the Ombudsman after all, it appears to have been written by the newspaper, and we find that the apology is half-hearted and it is unacceptable in light of the insult to LGBT people.
3. It has come to our attention that the Press Ombudsman and Mr Qwelane are long-term colleagues and friends and we believe in view of this Mr Thloloe should have recused himself from making this ruling as this leads to a perceived bias.
4. In determining that the column did not constitute ‘hate speech’ nor actively call for harm against gays and lesbians, we believe the Ombudsman should have taken account of the recent spate of killings and ‘curative rapes’ of lesbians in particular and realised that in fact, a high profile personality like Mr Qwelane expressing the opinions that he did could well incite violence amongst followers of his.
We believe the publication of this column to be discriminatory and inflammatory and to be a violation of the human rights of LGBT persons. The apology published is inadequate and only serves to condone the column and its publication, and we have as yet seen no evidence that measures are being implemented to ensure that similar comment is not published in future.
Your response will be appreciated.
On behalf of the board of Joburg Gay Pride Festival