The Sunday Times has apologised to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for inaccurately and unfairly reporting that he accused it of "clearly creating mischief", and that he "admitted" that the revisions to his original belt-tightening rules to curb public spending by officials could severely have weakened their impact - both of which could possibly have caused him some serious, unnecessary harm.
The report, written by Stephan Hofstatter and Pearlie Joubert, and headlined "Gordhan dilutes booze embargo" (22 December 2013), also reported that Gordhan had "watered down his ban on using taxpayers' money to fund booze-fuelled government parties amid claims that he buckled under political pressure".
Gordhan's office lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief, who said that the minister never stated that the newspaper created mischief; instead, he accused its source of doing that.
Retief said: "But more needs to be said as the matter is more complicated: This 'criticism' of the newspaper (of creating mischief) left a gap that could easily be misconstrued as an attack on the press, something that neither the media nor the government can afford. Therefore, not only was the statement inaccurate and unfair, it also had the potential to cause Gordhan some serious, unnecessary harm.
"Words have meanings, and the press (of all institutions) should choose its words with care."
This also applied to the statement that Gordhan "admitted" that his revisions of his original belttightening rules could severely have weakened their impact.
However, Retief dismissed the complaint that the report inaccurately stated that Gordhan had buckled under political pressure and ruled that the Sunday Times was justified in reporting the views of its sources.
The ombudsman also dismissed the complaint about the statement that Gordhan's department had "quietly published" the revisions, and about insinuations of "boozefuelled government parties" that appeared in the article.
Source: Sunday Times, via I-Net Bridge