HuffPost SA editor Verashni Pillay resigns after damning ombud ruling

Verashni Pillay
Picture: SowentanLIVE

Huffington Post SA Editor Verashni Pillay has resigned following a scathing ruling by the press ombudsman and severe criticism over the publication of a blog which called for white men to lose their voting rights.

News24 reported the former Mail and Guardian head submitted her resignation on Saturday and it was accepted by head of 24.com Andreij Horn.

“With immediate effect‚ Ferial Haffajee‚ The Huffington Post SA’s editor-at-large‚ and Pieter du Toit‚ the site’s deputy editor‚ will take over the editorial management of the site until we have appointed a new editor‚” the news site reported.

Pillay’s resignation follows a ruling by press ombudsman Johan Retief which found that a blog which called for white men to be disenfranchised‚ published by the website‚ was discriminatory and constituted hate speech.

“Let me be short and sweet: If disenfranchisement of anybody (whether white males or black females for that matter) is not discriminatory‚ the meaning of discrimination should be redefined‚” Retief wrote in a hard-hitting 14-page finding.

“I do not believe for one moment that such discriminatory and denigratory opinions can be described as being in the public interest – especially given this country’s history of its struggle for liberation.
“To disenfranchise a section of the population once again would indeed represent a huge step backwards – one that may have some serious unforeseen consequences.”
The finding follows multiple complaints lodged since the blog appeared on the Facebook page of the Huffington Post website on April 13 under the headline “Could it be time to deny white men the franchise?”

Retief lambasted the Huffington Post for not verifying the true identity of the blog author‚ who turned out to be 37-year-old white male Marius Roodt. Roodt submitted the piece to various news publications using the pseudonym Shelley Garland‚ claiming to be a student activist currently completing a degree in philosophy.

Retief rebuked Huffington Post SA editor-in-chief Verashni Pillay for initially defending the blog following the public outcry. Pillay claimed the blog was “pretty standard for feminist theory” and that there was “nothing in the article that should have shocked or surprised anybody”.

Pillay subsequently distanced herself from the blog‚ which was removed from the Huffington Post site: “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.

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