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Thursday Dec 06, 2012

The Cape Times apologizes to Robin Carlisle over Chapman's Peak toll plaza

The Cape Times apologises to MEC of Transport and Public Works (Western Cape) Robin Carlisle for failing to mention material issues that may have presented the minister's side more accurately regarding stories about Chapman's Peak Drive.

This comes after Carlisle lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman about three articles published on January 30 and 31 and February 1, 2012.

The Cape Times lodged an appeal against the findings of Deputy Press Ombudsman Johan Retief and two panel members. The appeal was heard by a panel comprising retired Appeals Court Judge Ralph Zulman and two panellists, Simon Mantell (public representative) and Neville Woudberg (media representative).

The main story in dispute was headlined Chapman's Peak row - taking a drive through the saga (January 30, 2012, written by Melanie Gosling).

It was found the following omissions were material:

  • Statements by Carlisle before publication that an agreement had been reached regarding the retention of day passes at Chapman's Peak.

  • That provision had been made for R25 million to be refunded to the province by Entilini.

  • Whether legal advice had been obtained by Carlisle regarding the legality of building on National Parks land, and

  • Carlisle's comment in a story by Gosling which covered the progress of the saga over the previous 12 years.

    The Deputy Ombudsman's panel said when viewed collectively "these omissions represented an unfair, unbalanced slant to the article".

    We were reprimanded for implying that "fear" and "self interest" were the only reasons for the decision to close Chapman's Peak Drive some years ago after someone was killed in a rockfall. There were other reasons such as concern for death and injury to members of the public (as highlighted in a ministry communication document under the sub-heading, "Turning Point").

    The Cape Times was reprimanded for incorrectly stating that no traffic figures had been released.

    The Deputy Ombudsman's panel recognised that the tollgate saga was something of a public relations disaster and that the whole Chapman's Peak issue was confusing.

    This was all the more reason for journalists to report on the matter accurately and fairly.

    It was acknowledged by the panel that Carlisle and his department had been given opportunities in other issues of the newspaper to express their views on this matter.

    The Deputy Ombudsman panel dismissed nine parts of the complaint. Another three were dismissed by the Appeals Panel.

    Cape Times

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