Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils
JOHANNESBURG - The Press Ombudsman on Friday ordered the Sunday Times and The Times newspapers to apologise to former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils for breaching the Press Code in a headline and story respectively.
This followed a front page article published in the Sunday Times headlined "Spy tapes &39;illegal&39; and expose Kasrils" on September 7.
A second article was published in the Sunday Times&39;s sister newspaper The Times the next day headlined "I discussed NPA investigations - Kasrils".
The first article said the intercepted telephone conversations resulting in the withdrawal of corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma "were tapped through dubious and possibly criminal means".
The NPA reportedly "discovered" this 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 through the latest transcripts and tapes as "the mastermind behind most of the political manoeuvring at the height of the ANC&39;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&39;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 omission of Kasrils&39;s comments in the first edition of the first story, and the fact that the article did not say that it was unable to include his views in time, were in breach of section 2.5 of the Press Code.
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&39;s comments in the first edition of the first story, and the fact that the article did not say 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&39;s 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 ombudsman directed 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 was directed 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 its websites.