Something truly extraordinary happened late on Friday night. The EFF, a party locked in multiple civil and criminal court battles over its public and social media utterances, apologised “unconditionally” to two journalists after they successfully sued it for defamation…

Karyn Maughn Defamation route may be best way to quash baseless political rants27/1/2020

3. Within 24 hours of the date of this order, the Respondents are directed to permanently remove the article from:

3.1. the First Respondent’s website, www.iol.co.za, and any other online platform on which the article was published;

3.2. all Twitter accounts controlled by the Respondents, including the

Twitter account for The Star (@The Star news); and

3.3. all Facebook accounts controlled by the Respondents, including the Facebook page for The Star.

Judge R M KeightleySouth Gauteng High Court28/5/2021

Within the space of 18 months two journalists and a business executive have, with the assistance of our courts, sharply re-defined the bounds of ethical journalism in this country, and their initiatives will, I hope, diminish what I call the ‘Sekunjalo Stench’.

In January last year the EFF was ordered to pay Anton Harber and Thandeka Gqubule R40 000 each after defaming them as ‘Stratcom-type spies’ who had ‘worked for the apartheid government’. Harber described this as a ‘victory for truth’.

What this proved was that similar accusations by Iqbal Survé against a range of newspapers in general – described by SANEF as ‘A sad day for South African journalism’  and ‘disgusting’ – and Sam Sole, Tim Cohen and Ann Crotty in particular were defamatory and that had these journalists chosen to seek relief through the courts, it would have been granted to them.

The ruling last year by Judge L T Modiba in the EFF matter contained a trenchant clause which is equally relevant in the constant attempts by Sekunjalo Independent Media – see here and here – to defame competing media companies and individual journalists – see here and here and here:

87] The allegations are harmful not only to the person of the applicants but to their profession as journalists and their standing as senior journalists. As already stated above, the allegations also have the potential to bring the media into disrepute, and to sow disunity and mistrust in society and in the political landscape.

Trevor Manuel, the husband of Mario Ramos, was awarded half a million rand plus costs on a punitive scale after being defamed by the EFF but, significantly, Ramos sought no financial redress from the Star and its editor, Sifiso Mahlangu after she was defamed by them.

What she did seek and was granted was an apology but, of far greater and enduring benefit for the promotion of ethical journalism in this country, was what was set out in sections 3.and 3.1 of the Keightley judgment:

3. Within 24 hours of the date of this order, the Respondents are directed to permanently remove the article from:

3.1. the First Respondent’s website, www.iol.co.za, and any other online platform on which the article was published;

This is important for a very specific reason.

Sekunjalo has posted its apology to the defamed Maria Ramos on its website but the question is: How long will it remain there?

Alide Dasnois, the abusively dismissed editor of the Cape Times provides a useful case study in this regard.

In August 2016, before Iqbal Survé followed the lead of the Guptas and withdrew his newspapers from SA Press Council jurisdiction, the Press Council Ombud ordered the Cape Times and other newspapers in the company to publish an apology to her for an article, ‘Independent vindicated as Dasnois settlement reached – Failed to have Madiba’s death on front page’.

Type ‘Alide Dasnois’ into the search bar of the IOL website and what you won’t find is that apology.

What you will find is the original offending article and, in yet another manifestation of how ethical, good-faith journalism ended at Independent Media after the Sekunjalo takeover in 2013, the attacks on her have never ceased – see here and here.

The constantly repeated accusation that Alide Dasnois and her team did not feature a Mandela obituary on the front page of the Cape Times is devoid of truth.

Firstly, Time voted it as one of the 14-best front-page Madiba obituaries in the world.

Secondly, as is pointed out on page 182 of Paper Tiger, the Cape Times Mandela obituary concurred with all the legal requirements in South Africa for a newspaper front page – ‘the Cape Times masthead, the date and the barcode which is scanned at sales points’.

The Tiger Tiger Five falsehoods in the Cape Times, a story which I broke in November 2015, provide another telling example.

A series of front page articles accompanied by photographs of five youths leaving court, falsely alleged that they had attempted to murder a middle-aged cleaner, leaving her covered in blood and barely able to walk in what the newspaper – even before they had been asked to plead – described as a racist attack.

All charges against them were withdrawn because the accusation was devoid of truth but, as a consequence of the Cape Times campaign of utterly evil journalism when Aneez Salie was editor, they ended up in one of the world’s most dangerous prisons, Pollsmoor.

You can read their personal account of this ordeal here.

Salie – see here and here – was subsequently promoted to editor-in-chief of all the Sekunjalo newspapers.

In 2015 the Sekunjalo newspapers were still subject to Press Council jurisdiction and they were ordered to publish an apology for the lies published about the Tiger Tiger Five.

Defamatory headline

What you won’t find on the IOL website is that apology, but you will find the original article with its defamatory headline, which remains there with the clear and deliberate intention of doing these youths – innocent of any crime – as much continuing reputational harm as possible.

By any measure that is an evil abuse of mass media influence and reach and, in my opinion, it was motivated by ethnic enmity.

Judge Keightley’s ruling that the defamatory article about Maria Ramos be removed from the IOL website and from social media platforms is entirely justified because it concurs with a founding tenet of ethical journalism – ‘Do least harm’.

I hope that this aspect of the Keightley judgment will provide an important ethical guideline for future rulings by Carmel Rickard, recently appointed ombud at the SA Press Council, and Yogas Nair, recently appointed internal ombud at Sekunjalo Independent Media.

If the concept of empathy has any relevance in the life of Yogas Nair, if the continuing plight of the Tiger Tiger Five resonates with her in any way, she will start her tenure as internal ombud at Sekunjalo Independent Media by implementing the Keightley judgment and ordering the removal of these articles from the IOL website. She has, after all, publicly stated that ‘accountability is sacrosanct.’

What I also found interesting about the Keightley judgment was who represented Ramos as the applicant in this court case

Ramos was represented by Webber Wentzel, which previously accepted briefs from Iqbal Survé.

Webber Wentzel’s appearance for Ramos provides tangible proof that it, like Absa, like FNB, like BDO, and like Britain’s BT Group – not to mention Sasol – has severed its ties with the ‘other Mandela doctor’ and very probably for similar reasons. In my opinion, the steps taken by these companies are motivated by a fear of reputational damage associated in any linkage with the man described by Anton Harber as a ‘charlatan and a fantasist’ and by Zimbabwean lawyer, Tantenda Gwaambuka, as a threat to media freedom in Africa – the man who attended both the Brett Kebble funeral and the Gupta wedding and whose grandiose claims are hard to believe.

For further information on why defamatory articles such as the attacks on Maria Ramos in the Star and on Cyril Ramaphosa in the Survé-owned Sunday Independent newspaper are published by Sekunjalo Independent Media, listen to the testimony at the Mpati Commission of former Iqbal Survé employee, Siphiwe Nodwele, and read the articles by the former political editor at the Cape Times, Dougie Oakes.

[Image: GovernmentZA]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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