I didn't want to be part of 'unethical and immoral' practices - ex-Sunday Times journalist

2015-12-01 21:49
Australia's major newspaper titles have gone behind an internet pay wall. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Australia's major newspaper titles have gone behind an internet pay wall. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - An explosive affidavit by former Sunday Times journalist Pearlie Joubert was read out in a Press Ombudsman hearing on Tuesday in a bid to discredit the newspaper's reports on the so-called SA Revenue Service's (Sars) "rogue unit".

Mohamed Husain, for former senior Sars officials Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg, read out the affidavit at the hearing.

Pillay and Loggerenberg have 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.

Both men were suspended from Sars pending investigations into the allegations of a rogue unit, but later resigned.

In the affidavit, Joubert claimed that she resigned from the newspaper in February this year because she was not "willing to be party to practices at the Sunday Times which I verily believed to have been unethical and immoral".

'He contravened his oath of secrecy'

She was referring to a number of articles printed in the newspaper since August last year which related to the "rogue unit".

Joubert said she was approached in April 2013 by a close, personal friend, advocate Rudolph Mastenbroek, who was previously employed by Sars.

She claimed Mastenbroek tried to give her information to be published in the Sunday Times which would implicate Pillay and Van Loggerenberg.

He sought to implicate them in having been involved in protecting the ANC and certain high profile members, Joubert said.

"I was aware that in advocate Mastenbroek doing so, he contravened his oath of secrecy as [a] former Sars official as well as the relevant confidentiality clauses contained in tax legislation," Joubert said in her affidavit.

"On the other hand, receiving information not commonly available to the public that related to wrongdoing in state agencies, the media relies heavily on sources who have access to and an understanding of such and therefore have an obligation to protect such sources."

Mastenbroek is a member of the advisory committee set up by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene earlier this year to attend to governance matters at Sars.

The committee is headed by retired Judge Frank Kroon.

Approached for comment on Tuesday about whether, as a member of the committee, he was now compromised, Mastenbroek told News24 he would "not comment at this stage".

Judge Kroon , too, declined to comment.

"I cannot comment on allegations," he said.

'Ordered not to interfere with the journalists'

Joubert said she raised certain concerns about the leaked allegations with her editor Phylicia Oppelt, who was Masternbroek's ex-wife.

She then noticed that since August last year, the newspaper began to publish a series of articles about Van Loggerenberg and Pillay.

Joubert said, after raising her concerns, she was isolated and ordered not to interfere with the journalists working on the articles.

The former Sunday Times journalist said she was concerned about Mastenbroek's position on the committee because he had demonstrated to her in 2013 that he disliked Pillay and Van Loggerenberg.

Sunday Times investigative journalist Piet Rampedi on Tuesday told the Press Ombudsman panel that he had worked independently from Joubert, who was based in Cape Town, and did not share sources or information with her.

Rampedi sought to convince the panel that her affidavit had no bearing on the veracity of the articles he had written regarding the "rogue unit".

Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said the panel would deliberate and make a decision by the end of next week.

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

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