Appeal Decision: Dr Ingrid Tufvesson

Mon, Mar 12, 2018

In the matter between

DR INGRID TUFVESSON                                                                                 APPLICANT


SUNDAY TIMES                                                                               FIRST RESPONDENT

TIMESLIVE                                                                                   SECOND RESPONDENT

MATTER NO:3656/01/2018


1.         Sunday Times (“first respondent”) and TimesLive (“second respondent”) published a story on 29 October 2017 about Dr Ingrid Tufvesson (“applicant”) entitled “Eskom pulls out all stops for Brown’s lover” and “A cv that raises more questions than it answers”.  These headings were referring to the applicant.

2.         In the wake of the above story, the contents of which are no really an issue, the applicant lodged a complaint, based on the publication of applicant’s picture dressed in what she says were her sleepwear, and that of her house.  She complained that the pictures violated her dignity and privacy as well as exposing her to danger.

3.         The respondents denied that a publication of the picture of the applicant’s house exposed her to danger, especially as no address was given.  As regards the applicant’s picture, the respondents said it was taken from applicant’s own Facebook feed.  The respondents also took the point that the complaint was long after the prescribed time.

4.         In his Ruling dated 13 February 2018, the Ombud dismissed the complaint on the ground that it was lodged way out of time.  He remained unconvinced by the applicant’s excuse that she had been ill and consulting some doctors; after all, her explanation was never that she was so ill as to be bed ridden and incapable of doing anything.

5.         The applicant has now lodged an application for leave to appeal the Ombuds Ruling.  As the Ombud correctly puts it, the question is whether “there was a good and satisfactory reason for (the) delay, as required by Section 1.3 of the Complaints Procedures”. The Ombud usefully summarized the material facts as follows:

“?  The stories were published on 29 October 2017;

On the same day Tufvesson wrote a letter to the editor, Bongani Siquoko, asking if the journalist had received permission to publish a picture of her house;

On October 31, Smuts confirmed that the editor was responsible for all published content;

Under normal circumstances, the complaint should have been lodged by November 24;

On January 4, Tufvesson e-mailed the Public Advocate (PA), enquiring if she could still file this complaint;

On January 9 Matsie e-mail to this office, requesting indulgence and condonation, as he intended filing a second complaint against the Times – more than six weeks after the period of 20 working days had expried; and

The complaint was lodged on 21 January 2018.”

6.         In determining whether “a good and satisfactory reason” for the delay has been given, each case depends on its own facts and circumstances.  Two points are important:

6.1    The length of the delay: In the present case, the complaint was filed one week short of 3 months since the publication.  The longer the period of delay, the stronger the explanation would need to be.  In this case the explanation falls woefully short of being satisfactory, given the length of the delay. As the Ombud correctly observes, the applicant was aware of the procedure, because she had previously lodged a complaint in connection with another publication.

6.2    Merits of the complaint: whether or not the condonation should be granted, it is permissible to look at the merits of the complaint.  The respondent’s answer to the merits of the complaint, summarized in paragraph 3 above, shows that the complaint has no merits.  Granting leave to appeal would eventually turn out to be a fruitless exercise.

7.         For the reasons given above, the application for leave to appeal is dismissed.

Dated this 12th day of March 2018

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel