Appeal Decision: Hasina Kathrada vs TimesLive


Tue, Feb 1, 2022

BEFORE THE APPEALS PANEL OF THE PRESS COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA

In the matter between:

Hasina Kathrada                                                                                                      Applicant

and

TimesLive                                                                                                            Respondent

Matter No: 9293/01/2022

DECISION ON AN APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

  1. This is an application by Ms Hasina Kathrada (applicant) for leave to appeal the Ruling by the Deputy Press Ombud dated 9 December 2021. It was a ruling dismissing the applicant’s complaint against TimesLive (respondent) based on an article published by the respondent on 29 September 2021, with the headline “Mkhize’s Associates Mather and Mitha ‘tried to duck Digital Vibes SIU probe’.” The sub-headline read “Tahera Mather and Naadhira Mitha used Digital Vibes as a ‘front’ to hide the fact they were bidding for the NHI and Covid-19 communication contract: SIU.” Immediately below the sub-headline was a photo of the three: the applicant and the two ladies, with their names given; it was also mentioned that the applicant was Tahera Mather’s sister.
  2. The essence of the article was that the other two ladies were under investigation by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) about their involvement with the Department of Health’s National Health Insurance and Covid-19 campaign related to the R150m tender awarded to Digital Vibes. The article indicated that the two ladies were not co-operating with the SIU in their investigations into Digital Vibes. In her own words, the gist of the applicant’s complaint was: “This picture is damaging to my reputation. It implies that I was involved in non-cooperation with the SIU, which is not true.” In its response to the complaint, the respondent said that while the applicant was not mentioned in the story, she was identified in an affidavit by the SIU “as having received potentially irregular payment in the saga”; and that, after receipt of the copy of the affidavit, the respondent approached her for comment but she never responded. The respondent said the applicant was part of the story, and that it was willing to spell out her connection. In her application for leave to appeal, the applicant made extensive reference to her previous engagements with the respondent concerning a previous article in order to demonstrate her willingness to cooperate with the SIU. It is, however, important to note that the 29 September 2021 article was the only one before the Deputy Press Ombud, and not any other.
  3. The essence of the applicant’s complaint was in effect against her being in the picture with the other two ladies. I agree entirely with the Deputy Press Ombud that the picture is of three women who appear to be seemingly friendly with each other at some sort of a light-hearted occasion; certainly not at a crime scene. The friendly atmosphere becomes reinforced when it is mentioned that the applicant is sisters with one of the two ladies. The applicant herself states that the article does not mention her; therefore, assuming that it put the other ladies in a bad light, the reader would conclude that she was depicted for no reason other than that she was the sister; after all, she is not described as an accomplice of some sort but a sister. What is wrong with being a “sister”? Being a sister is an innocuous natural biological connection. The applicant is therefore wrong to argue that the “picture is damaging to my reputation. It implies that I was involved in non-cooperation with the SIU.” The premise of the complaint is completely misconceived. As the Press Ombud says, “the reasonable reader is not morbidly suspicious and would not jump to a conclusion that she also allegedly failed to cooperate with the SIU” because, as said above, an entirely innocuous reason for her presence in the picture is given, namely, that she is a sister to one of the people.
  4. In her application for leave to appeal, the applicant added more information which is not germane to this particular article but to a different one. There was no complaint before the Deputy Press Ombud in connection with that article (which was published by the Sunday Times on 1 August 2021).
  5. In light of the above, I conclude that there are no reasonable prospects of success that the Appeals Panel would overturn the Ruling of the Deputy Press Ombud; the application is therefore denied.

Dated this 29th day of January 2022

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel