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.
Read the full appeal ruling here. Press Ombud, Johan Retief's terrible ruling on hate speech has been set aside https://t.co/1Nz38Afknc
She resigned immediately after getting the view of press ombudsman Johan Retief on the article.
Ex-Huffington Post SA editor Verashni Pillay found herself being backed by almost all across Mzansi, saying her being ‘forced out’ of her job signified the world needed serious transformation.
Pillay resigned on Saturday after press ombudsman Johan Retief found that an article published under her watch, titled ‘Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?’, was discriminatory and therefore amounted to hate-speech.
The opinion piece, written by Marius Roodt pranking the newspaper under the pseudonym Shelley Garland, was published on the Thursday of 13 April 2017 but was pulled down on 15 April after it went viral and created controversy.
It argued that white men should be stripped of their voting rights to ensure justice takes place on the side of the oppressed.
Author and commentator Eusebius Mckaiser described the Ombud’s ruling that led to her resignation on Saturday afternoon as a “legal bullshit”.
“Verashni Pillay should not have resigned as editor-in-chief of Huffington Post SA,” said Mckaiser.
“The press ombud was wrong to find that the blog post penned by a ghost troll constitutes hate speech.
“The basis for resigning as editor is therefore flawed too even while recognising that the editor and her publication made errors in the handling of the entire saga,” Mckaiser said.
“Retief says it’s ‘not in the public interest’ to publish opinion that white men should temporarily lose the right to vote. That’s legal bullshit,” Mckaiser said on Sunday.
He said that the Shelley Garland piece was a protected comment and that Retief was confusing Garland’s bad proposal with unprotected comment.
“Protected comment doesn’t mean: 1.) Comments that do not offend. 2.) Comments that aren’t stupid. 3.) Comments that don’t imply discrimination against white men,” Mckaiser said.
Verashni Pillay. PICTURE Townpress.
Mckaiser said protected comment includes an opinion article that “makes a poor case for discrimination against white men”.
“That’s why Media 24 should be ashamed of itself here. Because by not supporting their editor they help to cement a ruling that has negative implications for the entire media space,” he said.
EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi took to Twitter and blasted the “self-righteousness of white masculinity”.
“It is more scandalous that a one of the most talented and youngest black female editors, Verashni Pillay, is destroyed by offending white men,” Ndlozi said.
013NEWS Publisher Mpumelelo Mashifane said he read the story while it was still developing before the article was removed from the website and “I could tell something was gonna happen to her”.
“She remains one of my favourite editors, her biography is quite interesting, the incident is very unfortunate and I hope something will correct itself in an era of brutal racism like the kind we have been experiencing in our country. I believe that her skin colour also matters a lot in this issue,” said Mashifane
Commentator Khaya Dlanga described Retief’s ruling as “ridiculous”.
He tweeted on Sunday: “Woke up to news that Verashni Pillay has been forced out of her job. The ruling by the ombudsman is an absolute outrage. Ridiculous”.
The Star newspaper in an editorial piece said they hoped Pillay, the former Mail & Guardian editor and “one of the brightest stars of her generation”, will get another job as editor in near future.
“There are those who believe she was guilty of publishing without checking her facts. This is not strictly true, she published an opinion piece from a contributor that was provocative, much like newspaper editors do every day with columnists and letter writers,” the paper said.
“Whatever she was guilty of, she has grabbed the moral high ground by opting to bear the full brunt of the consequences,” said the Star.
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).