An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
The Press Ombudsman panel dismissed a complaint by Ronald Suresh Roberts (also known as Robert Kevin Roberts) against The Weekender newspaper this week. The paper reported late last year that Roberts had been charged with plagiarism by Aids denialist Anthony Brink for lifting passages from Brink’s unpublished book and using it in his “biography” of President Thabo Mbeki, Fit to Govern.
Roberts was particularly upset by the poster of the newspaper titled Suresh Roberts caught cribbing because, he argued, it elevated the claims by Brink to the status of fact. The Press Ombudsman panel rejected his argument, stating that it was a fair reflection of the story and that the story was fair.
Significantly The Weekender editor, Peter Bruce, argued that this was so because the:
The Weekender believes that the publication was true or at least that they reasonably believed the facts to be true. The evidence appears on a balance of probabilities in relation to the plagiarism charge to bear fruit. The same applies to the billboard.” Bruce repeated this at the hearing: “The poster was true – he (Roberts) is a plagiarist.”
The Ombudsman panel found in favour of the newspaper, in effect endorsing the view of the newspaper that Roberts is a plagiarist.
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