Sunday Times to appeal Press Ombud's Sars ruling

Johannesburg - The Sunday Times will appeal the Press Ombudsman's finding that its reportage on a so-called SA Revenue Service "rogue unit" was inaccurate, misleading and unfair.

"We are disappointed with the majority of the findings and sanctions that have been made and intend to appeal key elements of the Ombudsman’s ruling to the chair of the SA Press appeals panel," Andy Gill, managing director at Times Media, said in a statement.

"We maintain that the reporting by the Sunday Times was balanced, unbiased, and that the newspaper had been sufficiently responsible and thorough in checking the validity of all information supplied by its numerous independent sources."

Former Sars commissioner Pravin Gordhan, along with former senior officials Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg - who were also implicated in the Sunday Times’ series of articles on the "rogue unit" - had laid a complaint with the Ombudsman over various aspects of the reportage earlier this month.

The Sunday Times’ series of reports detailed allegations that Sars was running an apparent illegal unit, which was accused of running a brothel and spying on President Jacob Zuma, among other things.

Pillay and Van Loggerenberg were suspended from Sars pending investigations into the allegations of a "rogue unit", but later resigned. This week, Gordhan was reappointed to the position of the country’s finance minister.

The Ombudsman’s ruling ordered the Sunday Times to retract all stories about its Sars "rogue unit saga" and to publicly apologise, in writing, to the three men they had implicated.

Gill said the newspaper had no agenda other than to uncover the truth, which it investigated diligently and in the public interest. "We are confident of our chances on appeal," he said.

The newspaper would not comment any further until the appeal process was finalised.

Either party has seven days to appeal the Ombudsman’s ruling.

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