Judgment reserved in M&G defamation case

2012-02-14 13:24

kalahari.com

Johannesburg - Judgment in a civil case of defamation brought by Bosasa Operations against the Mail & Guardian and a reporter was reserved by the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday.

Judge Moroa Tsoka would consider the matter and decide whether to grant applications for discovery and further particulars.

If granted, the identities of two confidential sources who supplied documents to investigative reporter and former Mail & Guardian journalist Adriaan Basson could be revealed.

Bosasa Operations lodged a complaint of defamation against Basson and the newspaper after it published a story claiming the company had been awarded contracts to provide services to the correctional services department through corruption and bribery.

Bosasa, in its discovery application, had asked Basson to disclose his sources for the story, but he refused.

Public interest

Jeremy Gauntlett, for Bosasa, said on Tuesday that Basson had violated the Mail & Guardian's internal code by running the story based on confidential sources. There was no evidence Basson had tried to avoid the use of unnamed sources, or that the sources were reliable before he promised them confidentiality.

However, Wim Trengove, for the newspaper and Basson, argued on Monday that Bosasa's applications should be dismissed. This was because disclosure of the sources' identities - or documents which could lead to this - would detract from the media's guiding principle of public interest. Sources would "dry up" and, as a result, the public would not be informed of corrupt dealings.

Gauntlett retorted on Tuesday: "M'lord, Mother Theresa is not before the court."

Both the Mail & Guardian and Bosasa were private enterprises and as such "no one should be rubbishing anyone else in this court".

Gauntlett also replied to Trengove's argument that the Mail & Guardian's article was only one "amid a sea of negative publicity".

Caution

He said other publications had used greater caution in reporting on the matter. The article in question had "stated bluntly" that Bosasa had a corrupt relationship with correctional services.

Journalists who promised never to reveal their sources should take the consequences of this in law.

Quoting from Lord Alfred Thompson Denning in Goriet vs Union of Postal Workers (1977), Gauntlett said: "Be you ever so high, you are under the law."

He said the other party's arguments on Monday were to the effect that "selflessly, day and night, they work for the public".

Such assertions, in conjunction with arguments based on constitutionally protected rights to freedom of press and expression, amounted to "simply flash[ing] the badge at the court".

Gauntlett said the "chilling effect" the newspaper and Basson had argued disclosure of confidential sources would have on the flow of information to the public was "no doubt chilling, when the newspaper has to pay damages".

On Monday, Trengove and Kate Hofmeyr, a friend of the court, argued that a court order forcing the disclosure of sources - particularly at pre-trial stage - would have a chilling effect on the media's ability to keep the public informed.

Watchdog role


SA National Editors' Forum and advocacy group Section 16 appointed Hofmeyr as an amicus curiae.

"Irrespective of the particular circumstances of these particular sources in this particular case, disclosure would have a chilling impact on the flow of information to the public," said Hofmeyr.

Trengove argued that the media's function was to fulfil a "watchdog role" and "it is the purpose of this function to expose corruption, whether in the private sector or in government".

The confidentiality of sources should be compromised only where the public interest was better served by the revelation than the protection of sources. However, this had not been proven in this matter, he said.

"Investigative reporters, in particular, would be significantly less efficient if they could not rely on confidential sources," Trengove told the court.

As such, it was not for the media's own sake that confidentiality be maintained, but for the sake of the public interest.

- SAPA

Read more on:    mail and guardian  |  adriaan basson  |  johannesburg  |  corruption  |  media
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
5 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Torch 9810

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 gives you the powerful combination of...

From R2820.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.