Paper ordered to apologise to Biff

2015-05-09 16:49
Graeme Smith (AFP)

Cape Town - The South African Press Ombudsman ruled on Friday 8 May that the Sunday Times must apologise to former South African cricket captain Graeme Smith, following its headline story in the weekend newspaper on 8 March 2015. 

The Sunday Times had stated as fact in its headlines, in the Twitter feed and in its column ‘Mampara of the Week’ that Smith had advised his wife via SMS that he was getting a divorce, that he lied to her and that he had a ‘secret divorce plan’. 

Smith, via his sports lawyer David Becker, had filed a complaint with the Press Ombudsman, Johan Retief. 

Finding that the Sunday Times had breached the Press Code on four counts, the Press Ombudsman has directed the Sunday Times to “apologise to Smith for stating the allegations in question (that he advised Morgan Deane via SMS that he was getting a divorce, that he lied to her, and that he had a secret divorce plan) as fact in the headlines, in the Twitter feed and in Mampara of the Week, and for suggesting, without supporting evidence, some wrong-doing on Smith’s part by the wording of its promotional posters – thereby “unnecessarily harming his dignity and reputation”.

In a significant ruling, the Press Ombudsman also directed the Sunday Times to retract the statements in question and publish an apology on the front page and on its website, stating that the newspaper ‘went too far’.

The Press Ombudsman also stated that he “was uncomfortable with the publication of the allegations as such – given the fact that his comment was not published, and the possibility that the sources might indeed have been biased.”

Commenting on the posters containing the headline “Graeme Smith’s divorce shame”, the Press Ombudsman found that “The word ‘shame’ suggests some wrong-doing on Smith’s part – which is (again) merely an allegation in the story and not necessarily a fact”.

Smith welcomed the ruling. “I am obviously very pleased that the Press Ombudsman has found in my favour and I have been impressed with the professionalism and thoroughness with which the complaint has been handled. I have always had a good relationship with the media. However, in this case the Sunday Times simply went too far and this was tremendously unfair, both to me and my family,” he said.

Commenting on the ruling, Becker said, “The office of the Press Ombudsman was established by the Press Council exactly for the purpose of dealing with this kind of unfair reporting. Their independent adjudication process is an increasingly valuable process designed to hold the media to a higher standard of journalism.”

A full copy of the Press Ombudsman’s findings will be published on

Consistent with his approach to date on this matter, Smith will make no further comment at this time.

Read more on:    graeme smith  |  cricket

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