Sunday Times must apologise to Van Loggerenberg: Ombudsman

(Supplied)
(Supplied)

Johannesburg - The Press Ombudsman has ordered the Sunday Times to apologise to former Sars executive Johann van Loggerenberg for tarnishing his dignity and reputation.

Van Loggerenberg had complained about a series of articles the Sunday Times published on October 4 under the headline "Call to probe Pravin Gordhan over SARS spy saga – KPMG report confirms our story piles pressure on ex-finance minister".

The article and three others linked to it were mainly about the establishment of what the Sunday Times called a “rogue” investigative unit at the SA Revenue Service, ombudsman Johan Retief said.

Van Loggerenberg said the publication had relied too heavily on the KPMG report without questioning its findings and legality.

He said the articles falsely insinuated that he, and some of his subordinates, were guilty of a number of misdemeanours, unlawful actions, and general misconduct.

The journalists had not made any attempt to verify the allegations in the KPMG document or had given him a reasonable time to respond, Van Loggerenberg said.

In breach of section 2.5 of Press Code

Retief found the Sunday Times had breached sections of the Press Code.

"The newspaper should have provided Van Loggerenberg with a copy of the KPMG report’s summary – without which it was unfair to expect him to comment meaningfully on that document."

Its failure to do this was breach of section 2.5 of the Press Code which states that: "A publication shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication."

Retief said the newspaper was not justified in presenting the findings as the true version of KPMG's final report at the time of publication.

The publication had since been ordered to unconditionally retract all the text which was in dispute, to apologise to Van Loggerenberg for not having provided him with a copy of the summary, and unnecessarily tarnishing his dignity and reputation.

The Sunday Times was ordered to publish a kicker on its front page, above the fold, with the word "apology" or "apologises", along with Van Loggerenberg's name and a sentence referring the reader to the full apology on the second page.

"This text should include references to all the allegations made in the texts which are in dispute," Retief said.

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