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Media24 to fight SAA gag order

Nov 24 2015 18:07

Cape Town - Media24, the owner of Fin24 and City Press, on Tuesday gave notice to SAA lawyers that it would fight an interim High Court order gagging it from publishing the contents of a leaked memo dated 6 November 2015 to the SAA board from former acting CEO Thuli Mpshe.  

Media24 is of the opinion that the order should never have been granted for lack of proper notice and substance among other things. It also believes that the information contained in the memo is of great public interest.

South African Airways (SAA) brought an urgent interdict in the early hours of Tuesday morning to curb several media outlets from publishing the contents of the memo which it described in court papers as "privileged" and "highly confidential".

The document was an internal memo prepared by the head of legal, risk and compliance at SAA, Ursula Fikelepi, to the board of the airline.

The interdict was too late to stop Business Day newspaper from publishing the article in its print edition on Tuesday morning, but the respondents - BDFM Publishers, Moneyweb Holdings and Media24 (incorrectly described as Media24 Holding) - were ordered to "remove all references to the opinion including all or any of the contents of the opinion that has already been published on the internet and social media".

Fin24's sister publication City Press published an article referring to the contents of the memo on Sunday already, but it has since been edited to comply with the court order.

In its letter to SAA, Media24's counsel Willem de Klerk Attorneys said the court order only came to the attention of City Press editorial staff at 07:00 on Tuesday. "The order was obtained some days after our client's article was published in City Press and online in Fin24.

"Our client intends to have the court order set aside and will anticipate the return day for doing so," Willem de Klerk said.

Willem de Klerk argues that whatever right to confidentiality SAA may have had in the memo, has been lost and cannot be recovered by enforcing the interdict it belatedly obtained, because the contents have been widely published - in City Press on November 22, online on Fin24 and Moneyweb and on the front page of Business Day on November 24.
 
In an affidavit to halt publishing the memo's contents, Fikelepi explained that she was requested by exco on October 29 to provide a legal opinion to the SAA board.

Her advice, which was “sought in confidence”, related to the legal risks and implications resulting from correspondence between SAA and Airbus GIE.

The correspondence, dated October 2 and 26 2015, related to a potential dispute between SAA and Airbus over a transaction related to the purchase and swap of Airbus aircraft.

She said in her affidavit the memo contained "highly confidential information of a very sensitive nature", which could have "the potential of causing real and serious reputational and financial damage to the applicant and the government of the RSA".

Andrew Trench, editor-in-chief of 24.com, said the group believes that the material which is subject to the court’s gagging order is of profound public interest to taxpayers who ultimately fund SAA’s continued existence.

“We are of the opinion that this interim order will not be made final and we will oppose any move to make that so.”  

Media24's counsel has given SAA until close of business on Wednesday to abandon the interdict before it applies to have the order set aside.

saa  |  media24  |  industrial  |  companies
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