Battle over Cape Times Zille 'spook' story continues

2016-07-18 21:22
(Photo: file, Beeld)

(Photo: file, Beeld)

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Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said on Monday her office was taking legal advice on steps to be taken against the Cape Times after it did not publish an apology to her over its report on accused spy Paul Scheepers.

However the Cape Town daily newspaper said it has informed the Press Council that it has sought legal advice to determine whether there are grounds to review the Press Council Appeals Panel, or the Ombudsman's rulings on its coverage, whether in whole or in part.  

Press Council director Joe Thloloe said on Monday Zille and her spokesperson Michael Mpofu were "well aware" that the Cape Times asked for and was granted more time. He said the council was concerned that the matter was being used for "dubious political mileage". 

The Press Council Appeals Panel on June 28 ordered the Cape Times to "apologise for and retract" the statement that Scheepers was "Zille's Spook".

Scheepers, a policeman, currently faces 26 charges for breaking various laws regarding information gathering while doing a side-line business as a private investigator.

The African National Congress in the Western Cape has claimed that Zille was using Scheepers to spy on them. She has denied this.

The newspaper was found to have stated the "spook" claims as fact.

'Smear campaign'

While the Press Ombudsman dismissed the premier's office's complaint, the Press Council Appeals Panel overturned this.

In his ruling, Judge Bernard Ngoepe's ordered the Cape Times to apologise to Zille on its front page, and publish her right of reply in the same edition.

Zille, in a statement, said the newspaper was given 14 days to do this, but on Monday - the last day to comply based on working days - had failed to do so.

Her office said in a statement that the Cape Times had run an "eight month long smear campaign" against her and had been misleading their readers for this period with "false and malicious reporting".

It would write to the Press Council Appeals Panel to inform them of the Cape Times violation, and request that the matter be addressed, she said.

Damien Terblanche, on behalf of the Cape Times, said the appeals panel's ruling in June included the sanction that the newspaper must publish a letter of reply from Zille.

'Not in wilful default'

"The apology and response letter were subject to final approval of the Press Ombudsman. The Ombudsman rejected the first attempt by Ms Zille and a second draft was submitted by her to the Ombudsman last week.

"Due to the content of the proposed reworked letter, [the] Cape Times has sought legal advice to determine whether there are grounds to review the Press Council Appeals Panel, or the Ombudsman's rulings - the latter with regard to the content of the letter - whether in whole or in part. We have informed the Press Council accordingly."

Terblanche said this is now a matter between the Press Council and the Cape Times and once a decision is made by the Cape Times based on advice, the matter will either go to court for review, or the Cape Times will publish in compliance with the ruling.

"The Cape Times is accordingly not in wilful default of the Press Council ruling and it has kept the Press Council informed of the process it intends following."

Read more on:    cape times  |  helen zille  |  cape town  |  media

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