Apology to Ingrid Tufvesson

15 April 2018 - 00:00 By Sunday Times

The Sunday Times apologises to Ingrid Tufvesson for inaccurately and unfairly stating that she "refused to clarify" her relationship with former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown in "Minister's lover gets lucrative Eskom oil deal" (October 15 2017).

The newspaper argued that Tufvesson did not give a direct answer when asked if she was in a relationship with Brown, but press ombudsman Johan Retief found that her response, "What do you mean? She is my friend. Just like anybody is my friend ..." (among other similar remarks) was a specific denial.

However, Retief found that the journalist was justified in believing that Tufvesson and Brown had been involved in a relationship, and in reporting it the way he did. For example, the board of the Higher Education Transformation Network (of which Tufvesson was a former chair), recently stated in a media release that her relationship with Brown was "an open public secret".

Tufvesson also claimed she told the reporter she had never owned E Smart Solutions, the company that won the Eskom deal. However, her lawyer later agreed that she had been a co-owner of the company at the time, and Tufvesson herself later referred to herself as shareholder of the company.

Tufvesson initially claimed that the reporter failed to identify himself when he called her, but withdrew that complaint after a recording of the conversation proved he had. She thereupon claimed the recording had been doctored.

Retief dismissed a complaint that the story ignored her right to privacy, saying that in this case public interest "outweighed that of the individual. By far."

He also dismissed a complaint that the story was homophobic and sexist, saying the mere mention of a same-sex relationship cannot qualify as homophobia or sexism. He dismissed a number of other complaints from Tufvesson, including that the reporter was required to tell her where his information about the relationship came from, that the story was not supplemented and that the headline did not reflect the content of the article.

He also said that Tufvesson raised personal issues regarding the journalist, which were "inappropriate and unworthy of repeating or documenting".

Retief said Tufvesson's motivations for her claim that the reporter had been untruthful was not nearly strong enough to convince him. In any case, he found that the reporter had largely not breached the Press Code.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.