However, when the newspaper took the Ombudsman’s decision on appeal, the ruling was overturned. In a statement on May 26, 2008, the Appeals Panel said that the Ombudsman had erred in his remark about City Press having to prove the truth of its “corroborated confidential information”. He had erred in saying that Article 1.3 “requires much more than reasonable belief that a story is true to elevate it to being true” – whereas a “proper construction” of the Article was contradicted by the clear wording therein. It said the Code had not been breached by the coverage, and that the ANC complaint was dismissed.
No doubt, the ANC would not have been happy about the Appeals Panel decision. However, a threshold had been crossed by its participation in the system, and furthermore several other cases in the system had been decided in favour of complainants who were senior people in the organisation.
Thus, the Ombudsman ruled on 16 May in favour of then Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool, against the Daily Voice newspaper. In these findings, the Ombudsman reported that this ANC politician had complained that a story had implied that he had recklessly given one million rand of taxpayers’ money to a man facing drug-related charges. The verdict found that the money had been given to an organisation, not to the individual concerned, and that Daily Voice had thus not been fair to the Premier. The sanction was for the paper to carry a front page apology and an abridged version of the ruling on inside pages (content for both being supplied by the Ombudsman).
An early case concerning matters relevant to the ANC resulted from a complaint by businessman Robert Gumede against the Mail & Guardian, which had published an article that this substantial donor to the ANC was being investigated for having bribed Telkom executives to win a large tender. Announcing its ruling on 23 July 2009, the Ombudsman’s panel said the case “again brought the question of the use of anonymous sources in news reports into sharp focus”. In a recommendation to the judgement, it said that editors should “distribute the South African National Editors’ Forum’s Guidelines on confidential briefings and sources among all their journalists and run workshops on it.” This was because the guidelines stated that: ‘Anonymous sources should generally be