On February 18 Sapa issued a story headlined "DRUM ORDERED TO APOLOGISE" claiming that the press ombud instructed Drum magazine to apologise to Top Billing presenter Bonang Matheba for unlawfully possessing and "publishing her medical records" without consent.
The finding was in response to a complaint from Mateba about a Drum magazine article which included a string of allegations of a personal nature about her.
The press ombud has pointed out that the finding did not in fact say the medical records were Matheba's.
The finding had referred to Section 14 of the National Health Act, which states: "(1) All information concerning a user (a patient), including information relating to his or her health status ... is confidential;
The panel has decided that by no stretch of the imagination could Drum have been justified by "public interest" to either possess or to publish what it claimed to be Matheba’s medical records without her prior, written approval. The panel holds the view that Drum’s possession and publication of what was said to be Matheba’s medical records without her consent not only was in breach of the Press Code, but also against the law.”
“The panel considers the publication of what was said to be Matheba’s medical record an invasion of her privacy as well as a severe affront to her dignity and reputation.”
Matheba lodged a complaint with the ombudsman about a cover story on July 19, headlined: "It's a war – As the fight between Bonang and Euphonik heats up and gets dirtier, the truth seems hard to find".
On the magazine's cover was a picture of Matheba with the word "Exclusive", followed by the words: "Bonang's claims on how Euphonik is out to get her after she reported alleged assault – plus his response".
Immediately below this was: "I didn't have an abortion; I'm not a drug addict; He's trying to destroy me."
The story was about a dispute between Matheba and her former boyfriend DJ Themba Nkosi, also known as Euphonik, and against whom she had laid a charge of assault.
In her complaint, Matheba said the story was not in the public interest and was in bad taste.
She claimed the medical records published were not hers and that the magazine had in any event not obtained consent to publish them.
Matheba said the quotes on the cover had been falsely attributed to her and did not reasonably reflect the content of the story.
"[The] article was malicious," she said in her complaint.
The ombudsman dismissed the complaint that Drum had published sensational material about Matheba as this was not in breach of the Press Code.
It had also breached the code for reporting the unsupported allegations of just one source that Matheba was a drug addict, featured in a sex tape and was a cheat, and for not pointing out that the allegations had not been verified.
The words "apparently" and "allegations" were not strong enough to warrant their publication, and this had caused Matheba unnecessary harm, the ombudsman found.
The magazine was directed to apologise on its front page and inside the magazine for publishing the medical records, for publishing unfounded allegations and not reporting that it was doing so, and for making up quotes or ascribing words to Matheba in the cover-lines.
It was also instructed to apologise for accepting and publishing allegations from an anonymous source without exercising reasonable care in questioning the source's motives. – Sapa