Noseweek magazine may be forced to close after losing defamation case

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A copy of the March 2020 edition of Noseweek.
A copy of the March 2020 edition of Noseweek.
Nosweek website
  • Last month, investigative journalism magazine Noseweek lost a defamation case against senior attorney Leonard Katz.
  • The magazine's editor, Martin Welz, and its owner and publisher, Chaucer Publications, were ordered to pay R330 000 in damages, plus Katz's legal costs.
  • As a result, Welz says Noseweek is "unlikely to survive" as a print publication.  

Irreverent investigative magazine Noseweek, which for the past 28 years has lampooned SA's rich and famous, may be forced to close following a court ruling that it must pay R330 000 plus costs to a senior attorney at law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.

In an email to subscribers, the magazine's editor Martin Welz said Noseweek as a print publication was "unlikely to survive", but may continue online.

"As much as some people are undoubtedly pleased to see us gone, many more have said they'll miss their monthly Noseweek 'fix' arriving in their postbox," he said.

In late April, the magazine lost a defamation case in the Western Cape High Court brought against it by Leonard Katz, a director of law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.

Welz and Noseweek's owner and publisher, Chaucer Publications, were ordered to pay R330 000 in damages, plus Katz's legal costs. According to Welz, the legal costs may be more than R1 million.

Defamation

In late April, Acting Judge Ncumisa Mayosi ruled that an editorial and an article published in the July 2014 edition of the magazine were defamatory against Katz.

In these articles, Noseweek made allegations about Katz's conduct in liquidation cases. Noseweek refused to retract these accusations following a request by Katz.

Katz later instituted a case of defamation against Welz and Chaucer, which was heard between February and September last year.

In her ruling, Mayosi found neither Welz nor Chaucer had unpacked "any evidence, let alone evidence that is damning" to back up their claims of wrongdoing against Katz.

"In the circumstances, the defendants have abused their powerful position as members of the media and a publisher of a widely distributed magazine to launch and sustain a vicious unsubstantiated attack against the person of Mr Katz," she said.

She ruled that the defendants must pay Katz R330 000, about a third of the R1 million he sought.

The judge also noted that Welz, who had represented himself, had been unprepared, led "irrelevant evidence," and was often late. While this could usually warrant a punitive costs order, Mayosi said that as Welz was a lay litigant, she would not make him pay more.

Appeal

Welz said in his email to subscribers that Noseweek intended to appeal the findings.

"Whatever the merits and demerits, it is a sad end to an independent print publication that has unashamedly taken up the cause of the underdog, spoken truth to power, and managed to survive the odds with good humour for 28 years," he wrote.

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