AS expected, media company Tiso Blackstar group has issued an apology to the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) for its “unfair” and “inaccurate” headline claiming that Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane faced arrest in Botswana for failing to observe a court order.
In a dramatic U-Turn on Sunday, the company admitted that the report by one of its papers, Sunday World, last weekend had breached the press code.
In an apology published in the Sunday Word over the weekend, the group said the article “created a wrong and misleading impression that a court of law had in fact made a pronouncement”, which was “unfair, had no fundamental basis and inaccurate”.
This came after the ZCC issued an internal communique urging its 16 million members to boycott Tiso BlackStar’s titles for allegedly defaming and ridiculing the church and its bishop.
In a strongly worded memo, the church had advised its followers and sympathisers to stop buying the media group’s newspapers including Sunday World, Sowetan, Sunday Times and Business Day, saying they had resorted to gutter journalism to prop up dwindling sales.
“We regret the misinterpretation and apologize to Bishop Lekganyane for the embarrassment caused.” The media group said in a page 3 apology published in the Sunday world.
Furthermore, Tiso Blackstar also admitted to have violated section 10.1 of press code which puts the media under obligations to adhere to codes that say “headlines and captions to pictures shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report or picture in question”.
Sunday World reported about a group of ZCC branches in Botswana who had taken the church to court to oppose the merging of branches.
While the group had merely expressed its wish for Bishop Lekganyane to be arrested, the paper wrote a headline which created an impression that the court had ruled in the complainants’ favour.
Following the boycott call, Tiso BlackStar acknowledged that the branches had only “wished” and submitted to court that Lekganyane should be arrested for his failure to comply with a previous court order.
In response to the headline that sparked controversy last week, the church accused the media house of pushing its agenda to defame, ridicule and make a mockery of the church and its leader Bishop Lekganyane.
Furthermore, ZCC decided to dissociate itself from the company, saying Tiso Blackstar’s stories about the church were published to ridicule the bishop for fun and commercial reasons.
It said this was done to undermine the integrity and reputation of the ZCC.
Prior to their issued apology, Tiso Blackstar group deputy managing director Moshoeshoe Monare had told African Times that they had been trying to avoid engaging the church through the media in order for the matter to be resolved amicably.