Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation. This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.
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year that Roberts had been charged with plagiarism by Aids denialist Anthony Brink for lifting passages from Brink’s unpublished book and using it in his “biography” of President Thabo Mbeki, Fit to Govern.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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