In April this year, Verashni Pillay resigned after the the damning findings by the Press Ombudsman but now an Appeal Panel has set her free.
Ex-Huffington Post SA editor Verashni Pillay has won an appeal she lodged earlier this year with the Appeal Panel of the Press Council of South Africa.
The Appeal Panel set aside the April ruling that the piece was hate-speech.
Press Ombudsman Johan Retief found Pillay guilty of the opinion piece.
It was published on the Huffington Post website on 13 April 2017 under the title ‘Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?’.
Written by a prankster calling himself ‘Shelley Garland’, the column argued that white people are so powerful and the only way the oppressed can gain equality is through refusing white men the rights to vote.
It was published under Pillay’s watch as Huffington Post editor and she resigned when it caused a public outcry afterwards. It was removed from the newspaper’s website and management apologised for it, sending the matter to the Press Ombudsman.
The Appeals Panel said Retief’s April ruling was “huge a jump” in classifying the column as hate speech.
“It could well be that the piece irritated or annoyed some people; but to classify it as hate speech would be too huge a jump,” the panel’s Judge Bernard Ngoepe said on Tuesday.
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Media24 has launched a probe into how the article landed up on the website.
The DA has called on Huffington Post South Africa boss Verashni Pillay to resign after a column calling for the scrapping of the rights of white men to vote went viral and caused a stir over the weekend.
DA Parliamentary chief whip John Steenhuisen said Huffington Post SA should not ‘blithely’ act as if nothing wrong happened.
HuffPost SA Editor, Verashni Pillay.
The Huffington Post SA published the opinion piece on Thursday, titled “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?” but removed it on Saturday after it was discovered that its author, a Shelley Garland, was non-existent and a barrage of attacks from right-wing media, notably Washington based Breitbart.com.
Garland was described as a University of Cape Town Masters student at the end of the column but this was found to be untrue.
“[T]he denial of the vote to white men for 20 years (just less than a generation) would go some way to seeing a decline in the influence of reactionary and neo-liberal ideology in the world,” Garland had written.
“The influence of reckless white males were one of the primary reasons that led to the Great Recession which began in 2008. This would also strike a blow against toxic white masculinity, one that is long needed,” she wrote, adding that “a denial of the franchise to white men could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners”.
“After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism. A period of twenty years without white men in the world’s parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world’s wealth far more equitably shared,” Garland said in her piece.
Steenhuisen said this was a “fake news scandal”.
“I’m loving how Huffington Post are blithely acting as if absolutely nothing is wrong in this fake news scandal,” Steenhuisen tweeted on Saturday evening.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen.
“When will you be resigning Verashni?” Steenhuisen said.
“Zero credibility after this rookie error, not the first time either,” he said.
The Huffington Post SA was launched late last year and is owned by both Media24 and Huffington Post International.
On Saturday the article was deleted from the website.
Pillay apologised and said the article has now been sent to Press Ombudsman Joe Thloloe for his view on it.
“We have immediately bolstered and strengthened our blogging procedures that, until now, have operated on the basis of open communication and good faith. From now on,bloggers will have to verify themselves,” Pillay said.
Media24 digital publications boss Andreij Horn said whatever made it possible for this particular article to be published on the Huffington Post’s website will be investigated and actions taken so that it doesn’t repeat itself in the future.
“As a company we make an enormous investment to ensure quality journalism, precisely because we know that trust is non-negotiable,” Horn said on Sunday (16 Apr).
(edited by MLM)
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