Open letter to the editor of the Star
28 February 2008
Dear Mr Williams
A headline that accompanied an article on the front page of The Star yesterday, 27 February 2008, violates the principle of presumption of innocence and flouts media convention in the presentation of statements attributed to individuals.
The headline, `Shaik did bribe Zuma`, is an example of the trial-by-media to which ANC President Jacob Zuma has been subjected for a number of years.
Rather than using quotation marks to indicate that this was a reported assertion by an individual in a Constitutional Court case, The Star headline presented this claim as fact.
This amounts to finding Zuma guilty even before he has appeared in court and before a court has made any finding on the charges against him. This is a violation of his right to be presumed innocent until and unless found otherwise.
It is worth noting that Shaik`s lawyers yesterday placed on record that their client never claimed to have have paid a bribe to Zuma.
In the interests of fairness and to demonstrate a commitment to the basic standards of ethical journalism, The Star should issue a retraction and apologise for any harm caused by this misrepresentation.
Head of Communications
African National Congress
54 Sauer Street
Tel: 011 376 1000