Forensic Data Analysts, Keith Keating vs. Daily Maverick


Fri, Jun 1, 2018

Ruling by the Press Ombud

1 June 2018

 

PARTICULARS

 

Complainants

 

 

Forensic Data Analysts (FDA) and director Keith Keating

 

Lodged by

 

 

Keating

 

Date of articles

 

 

26 February 2018; 1 March 2018

 

Headlines

 

 

SAPS/SITA capture: Supplier threatened to cripple SAPS IT infrastructure over R11 million invoice;

and

Warlords, warriors and the systemic threat to the SAPS and South Africa: Just another day in the life of Scopa

 

 

Author; Respondent

 

Marianne Thamm

Complaint                                            

FDA and Keating complain about several statements in the articles (all listed below), and add that the journalist should have asked them for comment on those issues; he complains that the reportage has resulted in defamation and has caused unnecessary harm to their reputation and interests.

The texts

The introduction to the articles adequately summarised their content.

The first one stated, Keith Keating's Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), a supply company that features in a R5.1 billion investigation into irregular SAPS tenders procured through the State Information and Technology Agency, threatened to suspend services to SAPS. This would not only have compromised SAPS' IT infrastructure but the country's criminal justice system itself. Apart from the threat by Keating's lawyers, the ongoing mystery is also who exactly owns the high-end forensic equipment sold to SAPS as well as IT infrastructure supplied by FDA.”

The second one said, Wednesday’s Scopa hearing into alleged corruption in SITA and SAPS involving an estimated R5.1-billion revealed how a single supplier, Forensic Data Analysts, has the potential to cripple the state’s entire IT infrastructure, which is licensed to the private company. SITA has been locked into a more than decade-long relationship with FDA, paying millions for the maintenance of forensic supplies and IT services procured by SAPS. The debt is so large that SITA was unable to pay its own salaries when FDA presented it with an almost R11-million bill in December, threatening to suspend services if it went unpaid.” 

The complaint in more detail

Both texts

R5.1-billion

First text:

“Keith Keating’s Forensic Data Analysts (FDA), a supply company that features in a R5.1 billion investigation into irregular SAPS tenders procured through the State Information and Technology Agency, threatened to suspend services to SAPS.”

[IPID]: “… ‘thus far indications are that more than R5 billion may have been spent by SITA and SAPS combined’.”

Second text:

“Wednesday’s Scopa hearing into alleged corruption in SITA and SAPS involving an estimated R5.1-billion revealed how a single supplier, Forensic Data Analysts, has the potential to cripple the state’s entire IT infrastructure, which is licensed to the private company.”

“The Scopa probe was into the legality of around R6-billion worth of SAPS and SITA contracts, many of them awarded to Keating’s company over several years.”

Keating categorically denies the correctness of the figure of R5.1-billion. He says this amount has no factual basis, and that it is untrue, unsubstantiated and defamatory. He says nobody has ever alleged that he, or FDA, has committed corruption to the tune of that amount.

He submits  that he has furnished Thamm with a media release in December last year, and again in February this year, with the correct figures of FDA and SITA contracts and told her that the contracts had been entered into lawfully. However, she has not reported this information and has chosen to report the wrong information yet again – “which by its mere publication indicates a clear disregard to the facts available to her”.

He adds that the journalist had a duty to report the information that the total sale of goods and services to the SAPS amounted to R457-million.

While Keating admits that in the course of the Scopa hearing of 28 February 2018 the amount of R5.1-billion was a matter of specific enquiry, Lt Genl Schutte confirmed at that meeting that this figure was incorrect. He argues, “The matter should therefore, at the very least, be considered as disputed on record, as of the 28 February 2018 SCOPA hearing.”

He adds that Thamm has disregarded the full extent of the topics and queries arising from the that Scopa hearing and continued to publish only one version of the information available to her, causing her readers to draw negative inferences for lack of information.

From this, he deduces that Thamm was biased in her reporting.

Keating asks that DM:

·         retracts the reference to the amount of R5.1-billion, or alternatively correct it, and publish such correction in close proximity to the information which he had furnished Thamm with; and

·         desists from reporting the unsubstantiated and untrue figure of R5.1-billion again.

Corruption: Thamm’s views presented as fact

First text:

“In November last year, after shocking revelations at a SCOPA hearing of alleged widespread corruption amounting to around R5.1 billion…SAPS and SITA senior leadership vowed immediately to halt any further payments to Forensic Data Analysts…”

[IPID]: “ ‘To enable FSA to secure these alleged unlawful contracts, FDA have allegedly bribed several officials, excessively entertained some and threatened others’.”

Second text:

“At the end of the bruising four-hour Scopa grilling…it felt as if a 10-ton garbage truck had slalomed its way through committee room V454 in the National Assembly, leaving behind it a fetid and overwhelming stench of corruption. As committee members probed officials over ever-green contracts awarded to former cop-turned businessman Keith Keating, director of FDA, a modus operandi peculiar to State Capture was made visible.”

“Those who have grown fat on the corruption are not going down without a fight and continue to work in the shadows to scupper or discredit investigations.”

Keating complains that Thamm should have presented these statements as her own personal views. He adds that there was no evidence to support the allegation about “ever-green contracts” – six out of nine FDA procurement instances were facilitated though open bidding processes, whereas the others were approved by National Treasury as confined bids based on legitimate sole supplier status. He adds that these sentences also reveal Thamm’s bias.

He argues that the comment on “those grown fat on the corruption” included him, and insinuated that he was amongst those who “work in the shadows to scupper or discredit investigations”. He calls this reportage “extremely irresponsible” in its lack of facts to substantiate such a serious accusation of defeating the ends of justice.

Keating says that Thamm had a duty to publish his views on these allegations, as contained in the media release.

He asks for a retraction or a correction, or that the allegations be substantiated with facts.

From the first text only

“Keating snuck into the November SCOPA hearing… When [his] presence had been detected, angry committee members called for his immediate arrest.”

Keating complains this statement implies that he had obtained unauthorised access with clandestine motives when attending the Scopa meeting – while he was never barred from attending the hearing, and no other reason existed to suggest that he would only have been able to gain access incognito. The word “snuck”, he adds, unjustifiably suggested that he had “irregular motives” in attending the meeting; he also points out that Thamm has reported this statement as fact, and did not attribute it to a source – and suggests that her opinion was subjective and unsubstantiated.

He also says the statement attempted to create the impression that his arrest was an official demand, rather than comments made in passing by specific members of the committee. He says it would have been more accurate to report that, “some of the members expressed their opinion that [he] should be arrested”.

He asks for a retraction or a correction.

“And then [there was] the not-so-veiled threat to collapse SAPS’ IT systems.”

Keating says Thamm’s use of the words “threat” and “collapse” show that she has taken on the role of interpreter, rather than that of reporter. He says the Oxford Dictionary defines a “threat” as a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.

He submits the reporter sought to qualify this “threat” by including the following excerpt from FDA’s legal correspondence: “Given SITA’s failure to pay, SITA is hereby notified that FDA is no longer obliged to render the services in question. It is self-evident that if FDA were to suspend the rendering of services, then SAPS, the criminal justice system and ultimately the public at large stand to suffer grave prejudice.”

Keating argues that this statement intended to prevent harm by notifying SITA of potential prejudice of the continued failure to effect payment – and ot to cause harm (as suggested in the article), which means that this could not have been described as a “threat” of any sort.

In fact, he adds, the letter specifically stated that the only intended action to be taken in the event of continued non-performance by SAPS was to approach the court for an order compelling specific performance by that service (read: to effect payments lawfully due in terms of the contract between SAPS and FDA).

Keating says the DA Scopa committee member Tim Brauteseth’s statement that he had been “deeply concerned” that FDA had seen it fit to communicate a veiled threat to the SAPS in order to extract payment, has obliged Thamm to ask him for comment on this issue.

He asks for a retraction.

[Brauteseth] “… ‘forensic equipment and IT maintenance deals which have been shown to be irregular in that there is no evidence of a competitive bidding process for these contracts’.”

“According to IPID, SITA had also entered into various maintenance and support contracts without following proper procedures ‘extending these alleged irregular contracts by more than 800% without approval from Treasury’.”

[IPID chief of investigations, Mr Matthews Sesoko]: “ ‘Our investigation uncovered that a number of SITA officials and SAPS members have, after being party to these alleged irregular tenders/contracts awards, been employed within various companies, controlled by Keating, including FDA, some still in the employ of the state are alleged to have been offered to join Keating companies on leaving the state employment’, … Sesoko said. He added that officials in SITA had made admissions to investigators that they had received cash from current senior FDA personnel.”

Keating says the first statement was a quote by Brauteseth – which left no room for an alternative interpretation other than concluding that FDA’s contracts were automatically irregular if there had been no evidence of a competitive bidding process, and if the prescribed procedure had not been followed.

He submits the statement in question was not based on any available evidence or on any finding of SCOPA or any other forum, but merely on Brauteseth’s misplaced view. He submits there exist “recognised circumstances” under which a bid can be lawful and solicited from a single supplier.

Keating concludes that Thamm has failed to explain that Brauteseth’s statement was his opinion alone – while it appears that he was conveying an authoritative finding, rather than expressing his opinion, which has led to misleading reporting.

He submits that Thamm should have given him a right of reply, considering the fact that she had reported the views of IPID chief of investigations, Mr Matthews Sesoko.

He asks for a retraction and a suitable explanation, that the statement be substantiated with evidence (if available), or for the publication of his comments in close proximity to the offending statement.

“SAPS and SITA had been unable to explain clearly to SCOPA where the equipment sold was recorded in respective asset registers. [Brauteseth]: ‘Does this imply that Keating is holding the SAPS forensic equipment, firearms control and evidence management systems of the SAPS hostage? In fact, has the SAPS been captured by a single man and his network of cronies in the security cluster?’ ”

Keating says Thamm has relied on a lack of information by SAPS and SITA, and again failed to give him and FDA a right of reply.

He asserts that the journalist’s manner of reporting lacked objectivity and indicated a motive to coax the reader into a conclusion to summarily condemn him and FDA. “The inclusion of [her] pertinent interpretations … is reprehensible for its unashamed intention to tell the reader what to believe, instead of providing relevant information to allow the reader to come to his or her own conclusions,” he concludes.

He asks for a retraction and an apology.

“IPID told the committee that FDA had a current Rofin maintenance and support contract for R583 million. FDA had also had ‘several prior to this’ totally (sic) more than R200 million.”

                                                                                  

Keating says, considering that Thamm reported on Sesoko’s views, she had a duty to consult with him also in order to gain his views. He asks for a retraction, or for the publication of his comments in close proximity to the offending statement.

From the second text only

“The debt is so large that SITA was unable to pay its own salaries when FDA presented it with an almost R11-million bill in December, threatening to suspend services if it went unpaid… In the case of SITA, the demands had become so onerous that the agency was unable to meet some of its own financial obligations.”

Keating complains that these statements falsely and unfairly suggested that SAPS had been disadvantaged by FDA in its contractual relationship and due performance, and that the latter had been the cause of SITA’s failure to pay salaries to its employees.

He says that Thamm has failed to qualify the statement regarding SITA’s inability to pay its employees and the purported link to FDA. Instead, he says, she has opted for distracting the reader with the ambiguous and totally unrelated reference to “corruption” in a quotation saying, “The word ‘corruption’ derives from the Latin corrumpere, which can mean to bribe, but also to mar or destroy”.

Keating submits that an attempt at drawing a link between SITA payments to FDA and the former’s employees allegedly suffering as a result thereof, failed to take account of material facts that were substantially true.

He adds that this reportage also implied FDA had been “threatening” to suspend services if it went unpaid, without any substantiation. This implication, he adds, was also present in the first story that he complains about.

He asks for a retraction, or a correction, or that the statement be substantiated with facts.

“At the conclusion of the November grilling, Scopa had ordered SITA to immediately halt any and all payments to Keating’s FDA until two investigations, one by IPID and another by Bowman Gilfillan (contracted by SITA to root out corrupt tenders and contracts), had been completed.”

Keating complains that the above excerpt was presented in isolation and failed to mention that no finding of any investigation found reasons why payments should not be made to FDA in accordance with its contract with SITA. This, he complains, amounted to a material omission.

He says this statement should be amended by including the findings from investigations into the legality of payments to FDA.

Daily Maverick responds

Thamm says she has (accurately) reported on information that emerged during a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts hearing.

She argues that the:

·         information in the article was:

o   drawn entirely from questions, letters, and other documents made available to the committee, including correspondence between Keating’s attorneys and SITA and SAPS; and

o   based on questions asked and replies during the Scopa hearing;

·         article accurately reflected all replies by SAPS and SITA senior management with regard to Keating’s dealings with both entities; and

·         business of Parliament is privileged – the amounts referred to in the article were those that have been highlighted an investigations by IPID and also by Bowmans (and that have been presented to parliament), which is on record in Hansard.

Thamm concludes it appears that Keating is unaware of the rules of Parliament and courts and of the publication of information presented in public through these institutions. “We cannot apologise for or retract information that is made public in parliament and in supporting documents,” she argues.

Analysis

General comment

I have to agree with Thamm when she states that Keating is apparently unaware of the publication of information presented in public through Parliament (of which Scopa forms a part).

When a journalist reports on Parliamentary processes, including Scopa hearings, the reporter’s only task is to truthfully and fairly reflect what was said (as is also the case with court cases) – without:

·         being obliged to ask people for their views; and

·         having to verify any statement made during such processes.

In such a process it is also essential for journalists to interpret what was said – how else could they make sense of proceedings (which is, in fact, the nature of all reporting)?

This means that I am dismissing all complaints regarding Thamm:

·         not having asked Keating or the FDA for comment;

·         not having verified information which was imparted at the Scopa meetings; and

·         having offered interpretations of her own (as long as it was clear that those were her understanding, and if those were tendered within reasonable bounds).

R5.1-billion

The first question is if Thamm’s reference to an investigation of R5.1-billion into FDA was justified, or not.

An extract of minutes from a Scopa meeting reads as follows:

“SITA had an engagement with the Auditor-General (AG) which provided worrying information about the IT environment and where FDA and Unisys were involved, namely IT architecture and infrastructure. [Brauteseth] expressed concern that IT architecture could be sold for any price and that SITA had bought IT architecture worth R5 billion.”

It is noticeable that Keating himself admits that, in the course of the Scopa hearing of February 28, the amount of R5.1-billion was a matter of specific enquiry. The fact that Schutte contested the correctness of that figure at the meeting is irrelevant, as the story did not state as fact that FDA had been guilty of corruption to the tune of that amount. Also irrelevant, at least at the time of publication, is what the outcome of that investigation is going to be. All Thamm was doing at this specific stage, was to report the investigation into R5.1-billion.  

In addition, upon request DM has supplied me with some relevant documentation, which I am not at liberty to disclose. Based on these documents, I am satisfied that it was reasonable for Thamm to have stated that FDA featured in a R5.1-billion investigation (again, without pre-empting the outcome of such an investigation).

Secondly, I do not blame the journalist for not reporting information given to her by Keating regarding the two articles in question, as I have already explained above. Whether or not she has reported his information at a different stage is a valid question, but it falls outside the scope of this adjudication.

I also disagree with Keatings argument that Thamm has disregarded the full extent of the topics and queries arising from that Scopa hearing. I have listened for hours to a video recording of the meeting of February 28, and I have studied all the documentation at my disposal – and I am satisfied that the journalist has fairly and adequately reported on proceedings.

If Thamm was biased in her reporting, I am yet to see it.

Corruption: Thamm’s views presented as fact

I cannot agree with Keating that Thamm has presented either of the disputed sentences in the first article as her views – she presented both as allegations. The only time when the journalist has expressed her view or interpretation in these sentences, was when she used the word “shocking” – which, surely, was justified.

However, the same is not the case regarding the second story.

There is nothing wrong with the first statement that is in dispute, in which Thamm has voiced her own opinion by stating, “it felt as if a 10-ton garbage truck has slalomed its way through [the] committee room, leaving behind it a fetid and overwhelming stench of corruption”.

As I have already pointed out, the journalist was entitled to relate her experience. Surely, journalists are not confined to cold, clinical reportage of events – and I do not believe that she has gone overboard in this instance.

However, the following two issues do present some problems, from a media ethical perspective (read: the Press Code):

·         Firstly, the journalist stated as fact that officials had probed “

·          ever-green contracts awarded to … Keating”. A member of Scopa had used these words, as her opinion – and Thamm should have treated it as such. This was an allegation that should have been attributed and should not have been stated as fact; and

·         “Those who have grown fat on the corruption are not going down without a fight and continue to work in the shadows to scupper or discredit investigations.” It is not an argument that Keating’s name was not specifically mentioned in this statement – from the context, it is clear that the shoe fitted him. Thamm should have been more careful: At the time of publication, Keating only had allegations of corruption against him, and nothing to this effect has been proven. The possibility that this may happen in future is irrelevant. Thamm is welcome to report that Keating “[continued] to work in the shadows to scupper or discredit investigations” once (and if) he is found guilty of corruption, and if there is proof that he was clandestinely operating to discredit investigations. In the meantime, such reportage carries the possibility that Keating’s dignity and reputation could have been unnecessarily harmed.

From the first text only

‘Snucking’ into a Scopa hearing; calling for Keating’s arrest

 The sentence in dispute reads, “Keating snuck into the November Scopa hearing… When [his] presence had been detected, angry committee members called for his immediate arrest.”

Keating raises two issues:

·         The use of the word “snuck”; and

·         The calling for his immediate arrest.

I have listened to a video recording of one of the Scopa meetings, in which the chairperson interrupted proceedings (after more than half an hour of deliberations) to mention that he had become aware of the fact that Keating was present. Fears were raised that the latter could have had an intimidating effect on officials, and even that his presence could represent a conflict of interest.

The fact that the chairperson allowed Keating to remain in the meeting did not take away from the fact that he did enter the room undetected (at least, for a while), while the meeting was underway.

With respect, Keating reads too much into the use of the word “snuck”. In normal parlance, that word can simply mean “undetected”.

I therefore do not agree with Keating that the use of the word “snuck” implied that he had obtained unauthorised access to the Scopa meeting with clandestine or irregular motives, or that he would only have been able to gain access to the hearing incognito.

Secondly, there is also nothing wrong with the statement that members “called” for his arrest. There clearly was such a “call” – which was not acted on. Surely, Thamm would have reported it if events took such a dramatic turn. It is therefore not reasonable to interpret this matter as an official call for his arrest.

I do agree with Keating it would have been more accurate to report that, “some of the members expressed their opinion that [he] should be arrested”. However, I also believe that the reportage on this issue was essentially correct, and therefore was not in breach of the Press Code.

‘Threat’ to ‘collapse’ system

The disputed sentence reads, “And then [there was] the not-so-veiled threat to collapse SAPS’ IT systems.”

Consider the following excerpt from FDA’s legal correspondence to SITA: “Given SITA’s failure to pay, SITA is hereby notified that FDA is no longer obliged to render the services in question. It is self-evident that if FDA were to suspend the rendering of services, then SAPS, the criminal justice system and ultimately the public at large stand to suffer grave prejudice.”

I also need to remind all and sundry that no journalist can “report” without “interpreting” – especially not regarding matters as complex as the one at hand.

The issue, then, is that Keating interprets the FDA’s above-mentioned correspondence as something positive – he argues that the notification to SITA was intended to prevent harm which, by definition, could not be described as a “threat” of any sort. In fact, he adds, the letter specifically stated that the only intended action to be taken in the event of continued non-performance by SAPS was to approach the court for an order compelling the service to effect payments lawfully due in terms of the contract.

On the other hand, he submits, Thamm interpreted this to mean something negative (not to prevent harm, but to cause it).

This has prompted me to study the letter and spirit of the said correspondence.

In its “letter of demand”, addressed to SITA on 29 January 2018, FDA reminded the former of a written agreement in terms of providing services and receiving payment.

The letter stated that SITA had failed to pay (an amount of approximately R10.8-million was mentioned) – which FDA said it did not accept.

Given this situation, FDA continued, it notified FDA that it was “no longer obliged to render the services in question”. The letter stated: “It is self-evident that if FDA were to suspend the rendering of services, then SAPS, the criminal justice system and ultimately the public at large stand to suffer grave prejudice”.

In the meantime, the letter added, FDA nonetheless continued to render services, hoping that SITA would meet its obligations and that SITA would come to realise the “grave consequences” of its conduct. “It is therefore imperative for SITA to perform in terms of the Agreement by making payment to FDA … so as to ensure continued service delivery,” it said.

FDA then also notified SITA of its intention to institute appropriate proceedings in the High Court, should it fail to timely pay the full amount as demanded hereby.

Finally, FDA gave SITA seven days’ notice to remedy the situation, failing which the former would claim specific performance in the form of payment of the said amount, plus interest and costs.

From this letter alone, I cannot blame Thamm for interpreting FDA’s letter as a threat to collapse the system. The document made it clear, did it not, it was “imperative” for SITA to pay FDA “to ensure continued service delivery”.

Words have meanings.

But that is not all. In a letter by SITA, addressed to Scopa’s chairman, it stated inter alia it has learnt on 4 April 2018 that FDA was planning a shutdown of its services due to non-payment – and added that the systems were indeed shut down that very evening. It also mentioned “acts of sabotage” on FDA’s part.

In light of these statements, I am not blaming Thamm for mentioning FDA’s “not-so-veiled threat to collapse SAPS”, and cannot accept Keating’s interpretation of FDA’s message. Yes, in a sense it was intended to prevent harm – but it was also clear that harm could follow, as a consequence (read: discontinue to render services), if payments were not made.

Brauteseth’s, Sesoko’s opinion

Keating refers to statements by Brauteseth and Sesoko, in which the former inter alia stated that forensic equipment and IT maintenance deals had been shown to be irregular in that there was no evidence of a competitive bidding process for these contracts.

He argues that Brauteseth’s views were wrong and misplaced, and that Thamm should have explained that his statement was his opinion, and again complains that he was not given a right of reply.


However, Thamm merely reported what Brauteseth had to say in an official meeting – in an official capacity. I do not believe that she tried to influence readers to accept her interpretation. My take on this is that she merely did her job, and left it up to readers to decide for themselves.

The rest of the complaint

Keating also refers to the following statements:

·         “SAPS and SITA had been unable to explain clearly to SCOPA where the equipment sold was recorded in respective asset registers. [Brauteseth]: ‘Does this imply that Keating is holding the SAPS forensic equipment, firearms control and evidence management systems of the SAPS hostage? In fact, has the SAPS been captured by a single man and his network of cronies in the security cluster?’” and

·         “IPID told the committee that FDA had a current Rofin maintenance and support contract for R583 million. FDA had also had ‘several prior to this’ totally (sic) more than R200 million.”

Keating says Thamm has relied on a lack of information by SAPS and SITA, and again failed to give him and FDA a right of reply.

I have already made my argument clear on the reporting of Scopa meetings, and on a right of reply.

From the second text only

SAPS disadvantaged by FDA

The sentence in dispute states, “The debt is so large that SITA was unable to pay its own salaries when FDA presented it with an almost R11-million bill in December, threatening to suspend services if it went unpaid… In the case of SITA, the demands had become so onerous that the agency was unable to meet some of its own financial obligations.”

The complaint is that these statements falsely and unfairly suggested that SAPS had been disadvantaged by FDA in its contractual relationship and due performance in terms of its contract with FDA, and that the latter had been the cause of SITA’s failure to pay salaries to its employees. Thamm, he says, has failed to qualify the statement regarding SITA’s inability to pay its employees and the purported link to FDA.

However, these sentences merely stated some facts, and the allegation that FDA was to be blamed for it is, to my mind, simply too rich.

Keating’s also complains that this reportage implied (as was the case in the first story) FDA had been “threatening” to suspend services if it went unpaid, without any substantiation. I have already dealt with this issue.

Material omission

The following sentence is in dispute: “At the conclusion of the November grilling, Scopa had ordered SITA to immediately halt any and all payments to Keating’s FDA until two investigations, one by IPID and another by Bowman Gilfillan (contracted by SITA to root out corrupt tenders and contracts), had been completed.”

Keating complains that the above excerpt was presented in isolation and failed to mention that no finding of any investigation found reasons why payments should not be made to FDA in accordance with its contract with SITA. This, he complains, amounted to a material omission. He wants this statement to be amended by including the findings from investigations into the legality of payments to FDA.

But again, Thamm was merely reporting on events at the Scopa meeting, and could not be blamed for not including such issues in her article.

Finding

The complaint is dismissed in its totality, save for the following exceptions:

The texts portrayed the following two allegations as fact:

·         “As committee members probed officials over ever-green contracts awarded to … Keating…”; and

·         “Those who have grown fat on the corruption (read: Keating included) are not going down without a fight and continue to work in the shadows to scupper or discredit investigations” – without any finding of corruption against Keating at the time of publication.

This was in breach of the following sections of the Press Code:

·         1.1: “The media shall take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly”; and

·         3.3: “The media shall exercise care and consideration in matters involving dignity and reputation…”

Seriousness of breaches                                              

Under the headline Hierarchy of sanctions, Section 8 of the Complaints Procedures distinguishes between minor breaches (Tier 1 – minor errors which do not change the thrust of the story), serious breaches (Tier 2), and serious misconduct (Tier 3).

The breaches of the Press Code as indicated above are Tier 2 offences.

Sanction

Daily Maverick is directed to apologise to Keating for:

·         stating as fact that “ever-green contracts” had been awarded to him;

·         implying that he had grown fat on corruption, while no such finding has been made; and

·         possibly unnecessarily harming his dignity and reputation.

DM is directed to publish this apology on top of the pages where the second article appears (because these breaches do not occur in the first one), with a headline containing the words “apology” or “apologises”, and “Keating”.

The text should:

·         be published at the earliest opportunity after the time for an application for leave to appeal has lapsed or, in the event of such an application, after that ruling;

·     refer to the complaint that was lodged with this office;

·     end with the sentence, “Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding”; and

·     be prepared by the publication and be approved by me.

Appeal

The Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven working days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.

Johan Retief