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Appeal Decision - Paramount Group and Ivor Itchikowitz vs Vrye Weekblad

Wed, Nov 15, 2023


In the matter between:

PARAMOUNT GROUP LTD                                                                  FIRST APPLICANT

IVOR ICHIKOWITZ                                                                           SECOND APPLICANT


VRYE WEEKBLAD                                                                                        RESPONDENT




  1. Paramount Group Ltd is the first applicant in this matter and Mr Ivor Ichikowitz is the second applicant (“the applicants”). The applicants apply for leave to appeal the Ruling by the Deputy Press Ombud, dated 20 September 2023, in which the Ruling dismissed some of the complaints by the applicants, while upholding others. The complaints were lodged against the publication Vrye Weekblad (respondent) in respect of the two articles published by it. The first article was published on 19 June 2022 titled "Ukraine: This war never an African initiative”. The second one was published on 23 June 2023 titled “Slow down, tovarich: Russia, the peace initiative and the arms dealer”. The Ruling imposed some sanctions (corrections and apologies) in respect of the complaints upheld. In dealing with this application, I will only refer to the dismissed complaints, and in respect of which leave is sought.
  2. For leave to be granted, the applications need to show reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Panel.
  3. Given the complexities of the matter and in some instances some innuendos, I have decided to deal with this application differently to the manner I usually do. In particular, I am not going to motivate why the application should, as I believe, be granted. The Appeals Panel should feel free to express and hold their views. I am simply going to cut to the chase. It is my view, after considering the Ruling, the submissions in support of the application as well as those against, that leave should be granted in respect of the complaints set out below as I believe that there are reasonable prospects of success in respect thereof.
  4. Regarding the complaint: Arms loaded onto the Russian Ship (Lady R)

As the applicants say, the statement in the first article giving rise to the complaint is this:

Yesterday, speculation was that it might have been weaponry from the Paramount Groups that was loaded onto the Russian cargo ship Lady R in December at Simon’s Town Naval Base”.

  1. Regarding the complaint: Sales of arms to Saudi Arabia

The applicants say the statement in the first article giving rise to this complaint is the following:

The company sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and various African States. Paramount manufactures armed drones among other things.

  1. Regarding the complaint: Links to the Kremlin

The applicants say the statement in the first article giving rise to this complaint is the following:

“…… the entire visit to Ukraine and Russia was orchestrated by Vladimir Putin’s confidants”.

  1. Regarding the complaint: Siberian Goldmine

The following is the statement in the first article said to be giving rise to this complaint:

But that’s not where Ichikowitz’s ties with Russia end. Through his company Trans Africa Capital, he is also a co-owner of a large gold mine in Siberia which according to critics of Putin, helps fund the Russian war in Ukraine: Bricks Investors Tie up for Siberian Gold Mine Project (”

  1. Regarding the complaint: Zuma recommended involvement.

The statement in the first article giving rise to this complaint is said to be the following:

“According to my information, Ichikowitz was recommended as a shareholder by Zuma, who appears in photos taken at the signing of the agreement”.

  1. Regarding the complaint that article 1.8 of the Code was infringed.

This is the complaint that the respondent failed to obtain the views of the   respondents who were the subjects of critical reportage.

  1. I have mentioned the statements giving rise to the complaints as per the application, as well as the infringement of article 1.8, in order to define the parameters of the appeal. I do not deal with the merits of the arguments, for the reasons already given. It is in any case inappropriate to delve into the reasons why an application for leave to appeal should be granted as doing so may touch on the very merits of the appeal itself; the present is such a case.
  2. Having formed the view that the application has reasonable prospects of success in respect of the above complaints, leave to appeal is therefore accordingly granted.

Dated this 15th day of November 2023

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel of the Press Council.