Sunday Times must apologise to Gordhan over 'rogue Sars unit' stories

2015-12-16 11:04
Pravin Gordhan. (File: AFP)

Pravin Gordhan. (File: AFP)

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Johannesburg - The Sunday Times has been ordered to retract all stories about its Sars "rogue unit saga" and to publicly apologise in writing to former SA Revenue Service commissioner Pravin Gordhan and others implicated, according to a ruling by the Press Ombudsman released on Wednesday.

"Sunday Times is directed to unconditionally retract all the texts which are in dispute… [and] to publish prominently, on page 1, above the fold, a kicker with the words "apology" or "apologises", together with Gordhan’s name,” said Press Ombudsman Johan Retief in a statement on his ruling. 

The same was to be done for former senior Sars officials Ivan Pillay and Johann van Loggerenberg, who were also implicated in the Sunday Times articles and editorial. The newspaper was directed to publish a full apology on page two of its print version, as well as on its website, for various allegations made in the texts.

The three had 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.

- Read: Gordhan, Booysen submit complaints against Sunday Times

Retief said that according to the press code, the Sunday Times had committed a "tier 2 offence" considered as having carried out "serious breaches".

He said that the newspaper had presented, in its article, a draft finding from a KPMG report as a final finding: "This was inaccurate, misleading and unfair.”

Retief also ruled that the Sunday Times had breached the press code's ethos around reputation and dignity, which stipulates: "The dignity or reputation of an individual should be overridden only by a legitimate public interest."

As such, when it came to an editorial published on the matter: "The only conclusion that the panel can come to is that the newspaper’s reportage has unnecessarily tarnished Gordhan’s dignity and reputation."

Earlier this month, an explosive affidavit was presented before the Ombudsman by former Sunday Times journalist Pearlie Joubert.

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

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

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

Read more on:    sunday times  |  press ombudsman  |  sars  |  pravin gordhan  |  johan retief  |  media

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