Sunday Times must apologise for column

2012-05-10 21:51

Johannesburg - The Sunday Times must apologise for a column linking SA businessman Robert Gumede to election fraud in the Democratic Republic of Congo, deputy press ombudsman Johan Retief ruled on Thursday.

"The column's structure, as well as the lack of the proper context, has probably led to unbalanced and misleading journalism, causing Gumede unnecessary harm," Retief said.

Gumede and his firm Four Rivers Trading complained that the column, written by Greg Mills and published on January 1, sought to link them to a plot to ensure president Joseph Kabila's victory in the country's 2011 elections.

Mills wrote that an IT company approached to run the election reportedly turned the job down when the conditions included ensuring Kabila's victory.

He said the contract eventually went to Four Rivers Trading 21, headed by Gumede.

He quoted the Carter Centre, who reportedly said that the election results lacked credibility, while the European Union election observer team joined others in citing "serious irregularities".

Retief ordered the newspaper to print an apology on either May 20 or 27.

Not a hard news story

Either party can apply for leave to appeal the ruling within seven days.

He said the column did not explicitly say that Gumede was involved in election fraud, but using Gumede's name immediately after mentioning the IT company could link him to fraud in the minds of readers.

The Sunday Times had previously argued that it did not imply that Gumede's contract was linked to fraud and that "no reasonable reader would jump to the conclusion that he [Gumede] had".

Gumede's representative Nicqui Galaktiou argued that Mills relied on "unverified rumours" to create a sensationalist article without even contacting Gumede for comment.

Retief said that Mills was under no obligation to ask Gumede for comment, as his column was an opinion piece and not a hard news story.
Read more on:    sunday times  |  avusa  |  johan retief  |  robert gumede  |  joseph kabila  |  drc  |  media

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