Media that faithfully report the contents of a press conference are not responsible for any reputational damage that may ensue, the Constitutional Court said on Wednesday.
The ruling concerned a news portal that had turned to the top court with a complaint that a lower court had held it responsible for the violation of personal rights on the basis of a report of a press conference on tenders to run state tobacconist concessions given by a politician. The complainant argued that the reputation of another politician had been damaged due to untrue information given at the press conference, and the news portal was therefore responsible for spreading rumours.
The Constitutional Court said that if media give an accurate report of a press conference involving a public figure and public affairs which does not include any commentary, then the report cannot be said to constitute rumour.
Further, the source must be clearly stated and the person involved must be given the chance to respond to information that may be damaging to their reputation, the top court said.
Journalists are relieved of their obligation to verify facts disclosed when reporting a press conference involving a public figure, the court added. Current judicial practice does not accord with the constitutional requirement of freedom of the press, it ruled.