Ombud orders Sunday Times to apologise to Gordhan

The press ombud has ruled that the Sunday Times apologise to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for "inaccurately and unfairly" reporting that he had accused the newspaper of "clearly creating mischief".

In a ruling released on Tuesday, press ombud Johan Retief said these words, used in a Sunday Times report headlined Gordhan Dilutes Booze Embargo on December 22 last year, were in breach of the press code.

"[The] Sunday Times is directed to apologise to Gordhan for inaccurately and unfairly stating [with the possibility of causing him some serious, unnecessary harm] that he accused the newspaper of 'clearly creating mischief'," Retief said.

Further, he ordered the newspaper to also apologise for its having reported that Gordhan "admitted" that revisions to his original belt-tightening rules to curb government spending could severely have weakened their impact.

Retief directed the newspaper to publish the following text, under a headline containing the word apology or apologises: "Sunday Times apologises to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for inaccurately and unfairly reporting that he accused us of 'clearly creating mischief', and that he 'admitted' that the revisions to his original belt-tightening rules to curb public spending by officials [especially regarding alcohol at government functions] could severely have weakened their impact – both of which could possibly have caused him some serious, unnecessary harm."

In his mini-budget speech in the National Assembly in October last year, Gordhan said no public funds were to be used for the purchase of alcohol.

Following publication of the Sunday Times report in December, the national treasury lodged a complaint on behalf of Gordhan with the press ombud.

Three other aspects of the complaint were dismissed.

Both parties now have seven working days in which to apply for leave to appeal the ombud's decision. – Sapa

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