Judgment reserved in M&G defamation case

2012-02-14 13:24
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
SHARE:

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

 
/News
 

Hottie of the day: Nicole Meyer!

Nicole is the cover girl for the 2014 edition of SA Swimsuit! Check out some smoking hot pics of here here.

 
 

Men24.com

11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. 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

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding a...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.