It's not what Sunday Times reported, but what it didn't - Sars officials

2015-12-01 21:15
The number of complaints lodged with the Press Ombudsman over newspaper reports increased by 95% during the last two years. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The number of complaints lodged with the Press Ombudsman over newspaper reports increased by 95% during the last two years. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - Former senior SA Revenue Services (Sars) officials took the Sunday Times newspaper to task over information it did not report on, which they believed was vital to stories regarding a so-called rogue unit at the tax agency.

The Press Ombudsman on Tuesday heard testimony from the former officials and the newspaper's legal representatives, as well as Sunday Times investigative journalist Piet Rampedi.

The officials include former Sars deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay and head of investigations Johann van Loggerenberg.

The two lodged a complaint against the Sunday Times, following a series of reports regarding Sars and an alleged illegal unit which was accused of running a brothel and spying on President Jacob Zuma, among other things.

Pending investigations into the "rogue unit", both Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were suspended, but later resigned after settlements with Sars.

The officials alleged that there was an alternative narrative, different to what other media had been reporting.

"The beef I have is less to do with what was said, but more to do with what was not said," Van Loggerenberg told a panel at the Press Ombudsman's office in Johannesburg.

"There is an alternative narrative... that contradicts the Sunday times narrative."

Mohamed Husain, legal representative for the two, claimed the Sunday Times had been selective and unbalanced in its reporting.

Husain charged that, in an editorial, the newspaper had admitted that it had erred in making certain statements.

He was referring to the editorial titled "KPMG report confirms our story".

The Sunday Times has said that its reports were based on a summary of the findings and recommendations of the KPMG report, but that it had clearly stated which parts of the stories had not emanated from the report.

Eric van den Bergh, for the newspaper, said all three journalists on the Sunday Times investigative team had different sources from whom they received information.

Rampedi told the panel that his source had given him a summary of the KPMG report and that he had checked that the summary was a "true reflection" of what was in the full report by taking pictures of the original report.

Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said the panel would deliberate and try to come to a consensus on the matter by the end of next week.

Read more on:    sunday times  |  press ombudsman  |  johannesburg  |  media

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