Appeal Decision: Eugenia Kula Ameyaw vs Sunday Times


Tue, Feb 25, 2020

In the matter between

EUGENIA KULA-AMEYAW                                                                                   APPLICANT

AND

SUNDAY TIMES                                                                                             RESPONDENT

COMPLAINTS 6635 & 7864

 

DECISION ON AN APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

  1. Ms Euginia Kula-Ameyaw (“applicant”) lodged two complaints against the Sunday Times (“respondent”) in respect of two articles the respondent had published. The applicant was a board member of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (“EAAB”) at all material times. The first story was published on 3 November 2019, with the headline “Sisulu steps in over realty board ‘staff revolt’ claim” (complaint 6635). The second complaint was in respect of the article published on 15 December 2019, headlined “Estate agency board in new scandal” (complaint 7864).
  2. Complaint 6635. The story was about a trip the applicant had undertaken to Ghana for a conference. She complained about the fact that the article said her trip cost R90,000.00 and that the trip was undertaken in defiance of a moratorium placed against international travels. The Public Advocate dismissed the complaint; the Press Ombud did the same. The Ombud gave full reasons for her decision, with which I agree. Evidence was produced that the decision to impose a moratorium was indeed taken before her trip, contrary to her contention. It also transpired that the story did mention that the R90k was expended not only on herself, as she complained, but on both herself and another person. The Ombud wrote: “In short, there was no accusation of wrongdoing in this report but was rather an examination of issues of governance within the board and among senior managers. You were given a right of reply and all issues of contention were attributed to named sources.

The EAAB manages a substantial fund on behalf of the industry and matters of its governance are of public interest.” I could not agree more.

  1. Complaint 7684. This complaint was dismissed too, correctly, for the simple reason that there was no mention of the applicant at all. The Ombud: “In my view, the Public Advocate is correct in dismissing the complaint. You are not mentioned at all and the reporter attributed his statements”. Again I agree.
  2. In her application for leave to appeal, the applicant raised a number of issues. Properly analysed they revolve around the issues dealt with by the Public Advocate and the Ombud. The issue of moratorium for example, and the R90k issue. The difficulty is that the journalist received information about the issue of the moratorium from certain specific sources who were mentioned and who were within the institution. There was therefore no reasonable ground to doubt the veracity of the information. The informants included the chair of the social and ethics committee. The issue is not whether the minutes existed or not, but whether the moratorium was indeed discussed and agreed upon, as the chair and others said. The dismissal of the second complaint needs no further comment; the applicant was not mentioned.
  3. For an application for leave to appeal to succeed, the applicant must show reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Panel; no such prospects have been shown. The application is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 19th day of February 2020

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel