Appeal Decision: News24 vs Jurie Roux


Thu, Jul 7, 2022

BEFORE THE APPEAL PANEL OF THE PRESS COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA

In the matter between:

NEWS24                                                                                                                APPLICANT

and

JURIE ROUX                                                                                                  RESPONDENT

Matter No: 9507

DECISION ON AN APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

1. News24 (applicant) seeks leave to appeal the Decision of the Deputy Ombud, dated 16 May 2022, which set aside the Decision of the Public Advocate refusing to accept a complaint by Mr Jurie Roux (respondent) for the reason that it was filed out of time. The complaint was lodged 10 days after the prescribed period of 20 working days. The Public Advocate found that no reasonable explanation was given for the delay.  It is not necessary to deal with the explanation for the purpose of this my Decision. The article complained about was published on 14 March 2022 with the headline “Has Jurie Roux captured SA Rugby?” and the complaint was lodged on 30 April 2022. It is not necessary to go into the disputed contents given the technical issue I have to decide.

2. The Deputy Ombud, in his Decision, set out what he considered to be the procedure to be followed when the Public Advocate refuses or has refused to accept a complaint that is out of time. Given the fact that I am minded to refer the matter back to the Deputy Ombud, I will not express myself on the merits or otherwise of his views. The procedure may be summarized as follows below.

2.1  The Public Advocate is competent to exercise his/her discretion as to whether or not to accept a complaint filed out of time, irrespective of the length of the delay; adequate explanation for the delay must, however, be furnished.

2.2 In exercising the above discretion, the Public Advocate need not hear the publisher.

2.3 Upon insistence by the complainant where the Public Advocate has refused to accept a belated complaint, the matter is referred by the Public Advocate to the Ombud. Before doing so, the Public Advocate must bring to the attention of the publisher, for response by it: the complaint, the explanation for the delay and his/her decision on the delay as well as the complainant’s replication to the publisher’s response.

2.4 Upon receipt of all the above by the publisher and its response thereto, the matter follows the normal course until adjudicated by the Ombud, with any dissatisfied party pursuing an appeal, if so advised, to the Appeal Panel subject to leave being granted to do so.

2.5 The application for leave to appeal may not only be with regard to the merits or against the sanction, but also against the Ombud’s decision to condone or refuse the condonation of the late noting of the complaint.

The above procedure is adopted to avoid the matter being heard in a piece meal manner where there is a dispute about the late filing of the complaint and its condonation.

  1. It is important for me to emphasize that I have not applied my mind to the merits of any view expressed by the Deputy Ombud in respect of the issue of condonation for the late filing of the complaint. That aspect is still open for decision by the Ombud.
  2. For the reasons given above, the applicant’s application is premature, and the following Order is therefore made:

4.1  The application for leave to appeal is refused.

4.2 The matter is referred back to the Public Advocate to be conducted as set out in paragraphs 2.3 et seq.

Dated this 4th day of July 2022.

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel