Adri Senekal de Wet, the Editor of Business Report.
CAPE TOWN - Why would a multibillion conglomerate institute legal action against a newspaper that simply connected the dots by publishing news that is already in the public domain? 

Such companies normally state that their reputation has been damaged and have suffered damages to some amount. Such companies often request a retraction and an apology. Some will even be very prescriptive in demanding a specific worded apology to be published in print and online.

When such multibillion global conglomerates claim thousands of rand for reputation loss, my question is: At what point did they experience a loss in reputation?

When they were exposed in Parliament, or when an investigative reporter exposed wrongdoing by making the public aware of alleged corruption or theft, or when another publication re-publishes a summary of events alerting the public of alleged corruption?

Now, we know that once the sheriff delivered the summons, the case is sub judice, Latin for “under judgment”, meaning that a particular case or matter is under trial or being considered by a judge or court.

In England and Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Canada, Sri Lanka and Israel it is generally considered inappropriate to comment publicly on cases sub judice, which can be an offence in itself, leading to contempt of court proceedings.

According to Wikipedia, “sub judice is now irrelevant to journalists because of the introduction of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Under section 2 of the act, a substantial risk of serious prejudice can be created by a media report only when proceedings are active. Proceedings become active when there is an arrest, oral charge, issue of a warrant, or a summons.

Therefore, as editor of Business Report, I wish to express my concerns. Mostly, when editors receive summons, we are not allowed to report on matters relating to alleged corruption as the matter is now sub judice.

Recently, corporates in South Africa have been plagued by corruption allegations. Some have responded by taking necessary action through investigations and corrective measures. Some have threatened Media houses with legal action. 

What is the appropriate way for corporate citizens to respond? Whatever way corporates choose, it should not be focused on threats, it should be focused on creating a corruption free business environment. Corporates, especially those that are implicated in recent scandals, are called upon to lead the way of cleansing the South African business environment.

Adri Senekal de wet is the Executive Editor at Independent Media Business Report.

-BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE