Press Ombudsman rules in favour of Kasrils
Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils said on Saturday that he welcomed the Press Ombudsman ruling on reports by the Sunday Times and The Times newspapers.
“I respect and welcome your learned analysis and am delighted with your findings and instruction to the two newspapers concerned,” he said in a statement addressed to the Press Ombudsman.
“However, if you can bear with me, and given the time frame of seven days consideration regarding the process of appeal by both parties, I will be taking the next few days to consider with my advisers whether I may be accepting your ruling in full or appeal against any part thereof.”
Kasrils said that he will provide the ombudsman with his final position within the appeal period allowed. He thanked the ombudsman and said he was “greatly impressed” by the time and attention given to his complaint.
On Friday, the Press Ombudsman ordered the newspapers to apologise to Kasrils for breaching the Press Code in a headline and story respectively.
This followed a front page article published in the Sunday Times with the headline “Spy tapes ‘illegal’ and expose Kasrils” on September 7 2014.
A second article was published the next day in the Sunday Times’ sister newspaper The Times and that was headlined “I discussed NPA investigations - Kasrils.”
The first article said that the intercepted telephone conversations that resulted in the withdrawal of corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma, “were tapped through dubious and possibly criminal means”.
The article reported that The National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) “discovered” this about the telephone conversations as it perused the tapes ahead of releasing them to the DA following a court order to this effect.
The journalist added that Kasrils was allegedly identified in the latest transcripts and tapes as “the mastermind behind most of the political manoeuvring at the height of the ANC’s Polokwane leadership ‘battle’”.
The second article, authored by the same journalist, stated that Kasrils, was unmasked by the “spy tapes” as the mastermind behind the manipulation of the NPA, and admitted to discussing the NPA’s matters (with then Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy), but he said it was all part of his duties as intelligence minister.
Kasrils complained that the newspaper falsely alleged he was the mastermind behind a political conspiracy to manipulate the NPA, without any evidence, by quoting unnamed sources without giving him enough time to respond.
“The reporting had damaged his reputation.” said Kasrils.
In his findings, the ombudsman dismissed the complaint about the content of the first story published in the Sunday Times. However, he ruled that the headlines were in breach of the press code.
“The omission of Kasrils’s comments in the first edition of the first story, and the fact that the article did not state that it was unable to include his views in time, were in breach of Section 2.5 of the Press Code,” he ruled.
In the second story published in The Times, Kasrils’ complaint about the content of the story was upheld.
The article stated the allegations as fact; that the tapes and transcripts had unmasked Kasrils as the mastermind behind the manipulation of the NPA and that his name was contained in the transcripts, causing unnecessary harm to his reputation.
The Press Ombudsman ordered
The Sunday Times to:
- Apologise to Kasrils for stating as fact in the headlines that the “spy tapes” had “exposed” him (as the mastermind behind the manipulation of the NPA), thereby unfairly and unnecessarily harming his reputation;
- Publish the apology on its front page, above the fold; and - Provide the ombudsman with this text prior to publication and end the text with the words “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding”.
The Times to:
- Apologise to Kasrils for stating, as fact, the allegations that the “spy tapes” had identified him as the mastermind behind the manipulation of the NPA, and that his name was contained in the transcripts, thereby unfairly and unnecessarily harming his reputation; and
- Publish this apology on page four, above the fold.
The newspaper should also publish the apology on their respective websites –Sapa.