Kasrils vs The Sunday Times

Press Council 24 March 2015

I have won my appeal vs the Sunday Times and they must apologise not only on front page but also on street posters – which is unprecedented.

A luta continua!
RK

Ronnie Kasrils, member of the United Front National Working Committee and ex-minister in the ANC government, won his appeal to the Press Council of South Africa.

Kasrils made complaints against a 7 September 2014 front-page article by the Sunday Times. Kasrils complained, about the Sunday Times poster, “Spy tapes expose Kasrils”, the headline, “Spy tapes ‘illegal’ and expose Kasrils”, and the content of the report.

The Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief, dismissed Kasrils’ complaint about the content of the report.

However, he found the Sunday Times headline was in breach of Sect. 10.1 of the Press Code that reads: “Headlines…shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the report…in question.”

He further found that Kasrils’s reputation had been damaged unnecessarily in breach of Section 4.7 of the Press Code: “The press shall exercise care and consideration involving…reputation…” but he dismissed a complaint by Kasrils about malice and sensationalism.

Sunday Times was directed to:

  • apologise to Kasrils for saying as fact in the headlines that the “spy tapes” had “exposed” him (as the mastermind behind the manipulation of the NPA), thereby inaccurately, unfairly and unnecessarily harming his reputation;
  • retract the mastermind statement; and
  • publish the apology and retraction on its front page, above the fold.

Retief made no finding on the poster published by the Sunday Times and whether it had breached Clause 10.2 of the Press Code: “Posters shall not mislead the public and shall give a reasonable reflection of the contents of the reports in question.”

However, the content of the posters is the same as that in the headline. The Ombudsman had his own reasons why he did not order the apology to be put in the street posters; namely, for economic reasons and that he had consistently refused this. Clearly, therefore, he had found the content of the poster to be as offensive as the headline and to be in contravention of article 10.1, otherwise his mind would not have engaged the issue of sanction in relation to the posters.

In any event, the question of whether or not what appeared in the posters fell foul of the code and was harmful to the dignity and reputation of the appellant was intensively argued before us.

The Sunday Times appealed the ruling of the Press Ombudsman.

Kasrils cross appealed saying the apology needed to be published on the newspaper’s posters as well as on its front page.

The Chair of the Appeals Panel of the Press Council of South Africa, Mr Justice Bernard Ngoepe, on 15 December 2014; dismissed the application by the Sunday Times.

However, he granted the application by Kasrils to appeal against the Ombudsman’s Ruling not to order that the publication of the apology and retraction be on the street posters.

The Appeal Panel Hearing focused narrowly on this issue; i.e. should the apology by the Sunday Times be published on its posters as well as on its front page, or was there some other appropriate remedy available?

The chairman of the Appeals Panel of the Press Council, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, acting in terms of Clause 4.3 of the Complaints Procedure, appointed a panel consisting of himself and four other members, comprising three public members (Dr Simphiwe Sesanti, Ms Carol Mohlala, Mr Peter Mann) and one press member (Mr Mahmood Sanglay) of the Panel of Adjudicators.

The Appeals Panel hearing was conducted on the 13th March, 2015.

Precedent:

While the Appeals Panel recognised that publishing an apology in the posters had not been imposed before, they did not believe that directing the respondent to do so would necessarily create a precedent for all cases. Each case would depend on its own facts and circumstances. In any case, creating a precedent that an apology can never be made in a poster would in itself be problematic; it could, for example, lead to impunity.

In the present case the issue of spy tapes had widely been in the media and the context well known. Importantly, while already acknowledging that Mr Kasrils was, and perhaps still is, a public figure, to state wrongly and as a fact that a former Minister of Intelligence was “exposed” by the “spy tapes” in the manner explained, makes the case unique.

To construe this as giving favourable treatment to Mr Kasrils would amount to a serious misunderstanding of the facts of the case.

The Ruling of the Appeals Panel

The appeal succeeds, and the Ombudsman’s Ruling not to order the publication of the apology in the posters is set aside.

We order The Sunday Times, in its next available edition, to publish a poster apologising to Kasrils.

Such apology must include the words: “Spy Tapes” and “apology” or “apologise” as well as the words “to Kasrils”.

In terms of our procedure, The Sunday Times can write the apology itself and refer it to the Press Appeals Panel for approval. We would recommend words similar to
“Spy Tapes – we apologise to Kasrils”.

We order The Sunday Times, in addition, to publish the front page, above-the-fold apology as ordered by the Press Ombudsman on the same day/in the same editions of the newspaper as the poster apology.

We order that the same number of posters as those that carried the words, Spy Tapes expose Kasrils, are printed in the normal Sunday Times poster format – carrying the masthead of the newspaper.

We order that the distribution of the apology poster is the same as the distribution of the offending poster and that it is displayed with equal prominence.

Workers worse off under ANC – Kasrils

iol By Lebogang Seale March 4 2015 at 01:34pm Johannesburg – In a stinging attack on the ANC, former minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils has accused the ruling party of pandering to the demands of capitalism at the expense of workers and poor people. Kasrils said the ANC leadership was “locked in a disease syndrome” for lacking the willpower to tackle capitalism, while most workers and the poor bore the brunt. He said

South Africans were economically worse off now than during apartheid.

“Today we are here in one of the richest cities on the continent and statistics show that our people are worse off today than they were in 1994, from an economic point of view,” he said on Tuesday, addressing a United Front march to the Gauteng legislature to protest against “a capitalist budget”. It was one of Kasrils’s rare public addresses since he and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge launched an anti-ANC election campaign called “Sidikiwe! Vukani! (We’ve had enough). Tuesday’s march drew support from political parties such as the EFF, Workers and Socialist Party and Socialist Party of Azania as well as community-based organisations from across Gauteng. The hundreds of protesters cheered when Kasrils was introduced as the guest speaker, along with National Union of Metalworkers of SA first deputy president Christine Olivier. Kasrils is a member of United Front’s national working committee. “Yes, we have the votes and so on, but in terms of actual poverty, the research and the stats show that our people are worse off in terms of poverty than they were in 1994. We are in a rich country where over half of our people are going to bed hungry every day. And we see it in our streets, in our workplaces, in our townships and informal settlements and jikeleli (all around) South Africa in the countryside.” Kasrils asked what had gone wrong and how it could be remedied “because Luthuli House down the road has failed and is really serving the wealthy comrades. That is not a secret.” Kasrils then took a swipe at President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. “And it (the ANC) has a deputy president of the country that was able to bid R18m for one silly bull, which shows the nature and character of those who lead the party. “Needless to state about Number 1 (Zuma) who uses the taxpayers’ money for R270m upgrades at that stinking palace at Nkandla.” While he criticised the Gauteng and national budgets as “a joke”, Kasrils said there was nothing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and MEC Barbara Creecy could do because they were both “benign offspring” of a capitalistic budget. “(The budget) is decided in a small room, with Number 1, the finance minister and the Treasury. And I can tell you, I have been a minister before, the ministers have no say.

“That small group is the one that decides at the bidding of international capital and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank at the expense of the working class and the poor.

“The Budget is not delivering to the poor. They are cutting, they are forcing the poor to pay, so electricity is going up and those living in Sandton, Melville, Constantia and places like that are not going to worry.” ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa dismissed Kasrils’s assertions, saying he was part of an anti-ANC campaign. “Kasrils has long defined himself outside the ANC and it’s not that we are shocked. It has become fashionable for him to become an agent of everybody speaking against the ANC,” he said. The Star Ronnie Kasrils greets Gauteng legislature Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe after he addressed a United Front march on Tuesday. Picture: Itumeleng English