Verashni Pillay column ‘did not amount to hate-speech’, panel

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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‘White male offending’ Verashni Pillay gets popular backing

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.

RELATED: DA calls on Verashni Pillay to resign over outrageous column

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.

'White male offending' Verashni Pillay gets popular backing

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.

(edited by MLM)

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