M&G ombudsman appeal dismissed

By Drum Digital
12 September 2013

The Mail & Guardian's (M&G) application for leave to appeal a press ombudsman ruling relating to a story about ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni has been dismissed.

In July, Press Ombudsman Johan Retief ruled that the headline "Yengeni's R6 million ‘kickback' agreement -- German police find record of deal signed by ANC heavyweight when he headed Parliament's defence committee", was in breach of section 10.2 of the Press Code.

This was after Yengeni, who was the former chairman of a parliamentary defence committee, complained about the front page headline in the M&G, published on June 14 this year.

In his ruling Retief found that: "The... headline stated allegations as fact. This was in breach of section 10.2 of the Press Code.

The newspaper was ordered to apologise to Yengeni. The apology had to be published on page two of the paper and the wording would have to be approved by the ombudsman.

The M&G lodged an application for leave to appeal to the appeals panel.

In his ruling on Tuesday, appeals panel chairman Judge Bernard Ngoepe said: "I hold that there are no reasonable prospects of success against either the ruling or sanction by the ombudsman. The application is therefore refused."

The African National Congress on Thursday said the ombudsman had vindicated Yengeni.

"The ANC will never allow a situation where our freedoms are abused by anyone in their haste to fulfil political agendas at the behest of nameless and faceless sources," spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

"To this end, we trust that the legal remedies available to deal with libel and defamation will be exercised by comrade Tony Yengeni in this matter, sending a clear message to the press that ANC leaders, like all citizens, too have a constitutionally enshrined right to dignity and fair and truthful reporting."

-Sapa

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