Manto versus the Sunday Times

I find the story about our Health Minister’s attack on the Sunday Times over its report about her alcohol consumption while in hospital recently for procedures on her shoulder very interesting for various reasons. For one thing it begs the question how much the South African public are entitled to know about what their government officials get up to. It also highlights patients’ rights and issues of privacy and dignity which can conflict with freedom of the press.The Minister’s attorney send a letter of demand to the Sunday Times after the Sunday Times published its revealing article about the Minister’s bad behaviour while in hospital recently. The letter of demand basically alleges that the newspaper acted infringed on provisions of the National Health Act by gaining access to her medical records. Her attorneys cited section 17 of the Act which provides as follows:

Section 17 of the National Health Act.png

This provision requires that medical records be kept in a secure storage space and, among other things, makes it an offence for a person to gain unauthorised access to medical records. Although the Sunday Times’ attorneys denied that their client was acting unlawfully, there does seem to be a problem with the Sunday Times being in possession of the Minister’s medical records, especially if you take into account this section of the Act dealing with confidentiality (by the way, the term “user” is a reference to a patient – interesting term to use in a National Health Act …):

Section 14 of the National Health Act.png

I noticed a headline this morning that the Sunday Times has since returned its copy of the Minister’s medical records and imagine it was either a measure to stave off the urgent application the Minister’s attorneys filed yesterday or a compromise of some sort.The Minister has sued in her personal name and has contended that the acquisition of the medical records was “an unlawful and unconstitutional invasion of [her] rights to privacy and dignity”. This is where this case becomes intriguing to me. The basis for urgency is to prevent what the Minister contends is an ongoing infringement of her rights to privacy and dignity. The Minister’s concern for her dignity and reputation suggest that a claim for defamation may be in the works and this would mean a conflict between the Minister’s rights to dignity and privacy and the Sunday Times’ right to freedom of expression.One of the considerations that will probably come into play is the public interest in knowing that its Minister of Health allegedly abused her authority to bend the rules in hospital and smuggle alcohol into the hospital and even have a party until early in the morning in her room. How will the Minister’s right to privacy be weighed in this context? One of the defences against a defamation claim is that the publication is true and in the public interest. It seems to me that the public has an interest in the misconduct of its elected officials, particularly where the official’s actions are so closely linked to that official’s public duties. Although the Minister sued in her personal capacity, she allegedly abused her public office and the authority that accompanies that public office. The allegation that she was drinking alcohol before and after her procedure is also a concern in itself. It begs the question whether a person charged with safeguarding the country’s health policy should act in this manner. It also reminds me of the Zuma trial where the former deputy president spoke about his infamous shower to protect himself against a possible AIDS infection. This from a man who was charged with promoting the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS.While the Sunday Times may have acted improperly in gaining access to the Minister’s medical records, it may have been the only way for the public to find out about her alleged antics (you have probably noticed I use the word “alleged” a lot – until these facts are proved they are allegations of fact and not yet proved as such) and this is important because the public deserves to know how their elected officials conduct themselves, especially given that our electoral system doesn’t really give the public a say in which individuals participate in government, only which political party comes into power.In the context of the deputy Health Minister’s dismissal for seemingly irresponsible conduct, it now remains to be seen how the President will respond to these reports. Surely if the allegations are found to be true Manto can hardly remain on as the Minister of Health? Unfortunately it seems the determination of who acts irresponsibly and is there not fit to be in such a position of authority is somewhat selective these days. In the meantime it remains of utmost importance that the press be free to report these abuses as and when they occur, within reason of course.Technorati Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Paul

Enthusiast, writer, strategist, web developer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad.

  1. Stealing medical records and invading privacy is wrong. But even more wrong is your insistence that this is a press freedom issue – you know it isn’t, you’re a liar, it’s obvious that you just want to see Manto harmed as much as possible.

    I’m not buying it, the same people who are trying to profiteer by forcing ineffective “AIDS” drugs on South Africa are the same scumbags trying to discredit Manto.

    How about disclosing YOUR financial interests for a change, so that we can all see exactly who is profiting from telling what lies !

  2. Stealing medical records and invading privacy is wrong. But even more wrong is your insistence that this is a press freedom issue – you know it isn’t, you’re a liar, it’s obvious that you just want to see Manto harmed as much as possible.

    I’m not buying it, the same people who are trying to profiteer by forcing ineffective “AIDS” drugs on South Africa are the same scumbags trying to discredit Manto.

    How about disclosing YOUR financial interests for a change, so that we can all see exactly who is profiting from telling what lies !

  3. Stealing medical records and invading privacy is wrong. But even more wrong is your insistence that this is a press freedom issue – you know it isn’t, you’re a liar, it’s obvious that you just want to see Manto harmed as much as possible.

    I’m not buying it, the same people who are trying to profiteer by forcing ineffective “AIDS” drugs on South Africa are the same scumbags trying to discredit Manto.

    How about disclosing YOUR financial interests for a change, so that we can all see exactly who is profiting from telling what lies !

  4. Stealing medical records and invading privacy is wrong. But even more wrong is your insistence that this is a press freedom issue – you know it isn't, you're a liar, it's obvious that you just want to see Manto harmed as much as possible.

    I'm not buying it, the same people who are trying to profiteer by forcing ineffective “AIDS” drugs on South Africa are the same scumbags trying to discredit Manto.

    How about disclosing YOUR financial interests for a change, so that we can all see exactly who is profiting from telling what lies !

  5. Thanks for your input Todd. It is a narrow view although probably what Manto and her legal team advanced as part of their arguments. Unfortunately the situation is more complex than this and there are some important public interest issues involved.

    As for your query about my financial interests, I am glad you asked. I don’t have any financial stake or derive any financial benefit from this scandal. I am not involved in any conspiracies by people promoting cheaper HIV/AIDS drugs (although I do support efforts to bring the cost of effective HIV/AIDS drugs down to more affordable levels). In fact, I don’t even make all that much money from this blog.

    I am a big believer in freedom of expression and the necessity of exposing corruption.

  6. Thanks for your input Todd. It is a narrow view although probably what Manto and her legal team advanced as part of their arguments. Unfortunately the situation is more complex than this and there are some important public interest issues involved.

    As for your query about my financial interests, I am glad you asked. I don’t have any financial stake or derive any financial benefit from this scandal. I am not involved in any conspiracies by people promoting cheaper HIV/AIDS drugs (although I do support efforts to bring the cost of effective HIV/AIDS drugs down to more affordable levels). In fact, I don’t even make all that much money from this blog.

    I am a big believer in freedom of expression and the necessity of exposing corruption.

  7. Thanks for your input Todd. It is a narrow view although probably what Manto and her legal team advanced as part of their arguments. Unfortunately the situation is more complex than this and there are some important public interest issues involved.

    As for your query about my financial interests, I am glad you asked. I don’t have any financial stake or derive any financial benefit from this scandal. I am not involved in any conspiracies by people promoting cheaper HIV/AIDS drugs (although I do support efforts to bring the cost of effective HIV/AIDS drugs down to more affordable levels). In fact, I don’t even make all that much money from this blog.

    I am a big believer in freedom of expression and the necessity of exposing corruption.

  8. Thanks for your input Todd. It is a narrow view although probably what Manto and her legal team advanced as part of their arguments. Unfortunately the situation is more complex than this and there are some important public interest issues involved.

    As for your query about my financial interests, I am glad you asked. I don't have any financial stake or derive any financial benefit from this scandal. I am not involved in any conspiracies by people promoting cheaper HIV/AIDS drugs (although I do support efforts to bring the cost of effective HIV/AIDS drugs down to more affordable levels). In fact, I don't even make all that much money from this blog.

    I am a big believer in freedom of expression and the necessity of exposing corruption.

  9. (1) In normal (polite) conversation. If I make a comment to someone, I implicitly invite that person to respond. I am not restricted in the comments that I make and thus the responder is not restricted in the response.
    In practice if when I speak to my neighbour, if he always responds by swearing at me I will stop speaking to him.
    So if I make a comment which I know or expect the media to publish, then I also invite the media to respond to my comments. If I dont like what the media says, then I should not speak to the media.
    (2) If I am a representative of the public, or conduct business in the name of the public, ( which elected official do), then those in whose name I act have the right to the information necessary for them be able to make an informed judgement as to whether I should be allowed to continue to represent them. If this person who represents me, has misrepresented themself, or is not fulfilling the trust that has been placed in them, then if this person fails to inform me of their misconduct, can it be wrong ro another person to tell me what the facts are.
    (3). Now in the case of the Minister of Health, she has said that beetroot, garlic, and onions are all that is required to combat aids, and that anti-rival drugs are a plot by the western world to poison the citizens of this land. She has also supported the use of vitamins in combating drugs and has publically supported the efforts of certain organizations in promoting their products. At this point the reader needs to decide as whether the above statements are fact or fiction. If fact, then should the law allow this person to hide the evidence of her
    misdeeds or misconduct.
    If fiction — firstly to require the publisher of the false information to retract the false claims, and to provide minister the opportunity to publish the facts and to require the publisher to show that the information publised was published in good faith, ( that is based on the publisher having expended the necessary effort to establish as far as is reasonable the accuracy of the report).
    (4) For public figures, the ability to sue in court should be severly limited, the defense that these people have is to make available for publication of the facts available in the situation so that the public can better judge whethet to vote for them in the future. Public figures should have nothing to hide in public affairs – they have a right to their personal privacy — but that is all.
    (5). Now the law and the lawyers and the statutes and the judgements have presented
    the above in a multiplicty of words and decrees and judgements to much so that it has become a very time consuming and costly procedure to establish the facts. The facts should speaka for themselves, how is the department of health doing. If it is doing well, keep up the good work. If it is not doing well, fire the person. If the person has stolen something then treat the person as a thief should be treated. etc etc

  10. (1) In normal (polite) conversation. If I make a comment to someone, I implicitly invite that person to respond. I am not restricted in the comments that I make and thus the responder is not restricted in the response.
    In practice if when I speak to my neighbour, if he always responds by swearing at me I will stop speaking to him.
    So if I make a comment which I know or expect the media to publish, then I also invite the media to respond to my comments. If I dont like what the media says, then I should not speak to the media.
    (2) If I am a representative of the public, or conduct business in the name of the public, ( which elected official do), then those in whose name I act have the right to the information necessary for them be able to make an informed judgement as to whether I should be allowed to continue to represent them. If this person who represents me, has misrepresented themself, or is not fulfilling the trust that has been placed in them, then if this person fails to inform me of their misconduct, can it be wrong ro another person to tell me what the facts are.
    (3). Now in the case of the Minister of Health, she has said that beetroot, garlic, and onions are all that is required to combat aids, and that anti-rival drugs are a plot by the western world to poison the citizens of this land. She has also supported the use of vitamins in combating drugs and has publically supported the efforts of certain organizations in promoting their products. At this point the reader needs to decide as whether the above statements are fact or fiction. If fact, then should the law allow this person to hide the evidence of her
    misdeeds or misconduct.
    If fiction — firstly to require the publisher of the false information to retract the false claims, and to provide minister the opportunity to publish the facts and to require the publisher to show that the information publised was published in good faith, ( that is based on the publisher having expended the necessary effort to establish as far as is reasonable the accuracy of the report).
    (4) For public figures, the ability to sue in court should be severly limited, the defense that these people have is to make available for publication of the facts available in the situation so that the public can better judge whethet to vote for them in the future. Public figures should have nothing to hide in public affairs – they have a right to their personal privacy — but that is all.
    (5). Now the law and the lawyers and the statutes and the judgements have presented
    the above in a multiplicty of words and decrees and judgements to much so that it has become a very time consuming and costly procedure to establish the facts. The facts should speaka for themselves, how is the department of health doing. If it is doing well, keep up the good work. If it is not doing well, fire the person. If the person has stolen something then treat the person as a thief should be treated. etc etc

  11. (1) In normal (polite) conversation. If I make a comment to someone, I implicitly invite that person to respond. I am not restricted in the comments that I make and thus the responder is not restricted in the response.
    In practice if when I speak to my neighbour, if he always responds by swearing at me I will stop speaking to him.
    So if I make a comment which I know or expect the media to publish, then I also invite the media to respond to my comments. If I dont like what the media says, then I should not speak to the media.
    (2) If I am a representative of the public, or conduct business in the name of the public, ( which elected official do), then those in whose name I act have the right to the information necessary for them be able to make an informed judgement as to whether I should be allowed to continue to represent them. If this person who represents me, has misrepresented themself, or is not fulfilling the trust that has been placed in them, then if this person fails to inform me of their misconduct, can it be wrong ro another person to tell me what the facts are.
    (3). Now in the case of the Minister of Health, she has said that beetroot, garlic, and onions are all that is required to combat aids, and that anti-rival drugs are a plot by the western world to poison the citizens of this land. She has also supported the use of vitamins in combating drugs and has publically supported the efforts of certain organizations in promoting their products. At this point the reader needs to decide as whether the above statements are fact or fiction. If fact, then should the law allow this person to hide the evidence of her
    misdeeds or misconduct.
    If fiction — firstly to require the publisher of the false information to retract the false claims, and to provide minister the opportunity to publish the facts and to require the publisher to show that the information publised was published in good faith, ( that is based on the publisher having expended the necessary effort to establish as far as is reasonable the accuracy of the report).
    (4) For public figures, the ability to sue in court should be severly limited, the defense that these people have is to make available for publication of the facts available in the situation so that the public can better judge whethet to vote for them in the future. Public figures should have nothing to hide in public affairs – they have a right to their personal privacy — but that is all.
    (5). Now the law and the lawyers and the statutes and the judgements have presented
    the above in a multiplicty of words and decrees and judgements to much so that it has become a very time consuming and costly procedure to establish the facts. The facts should speaka for themselves, how is the department of health doing. If it is doing well, keep up the good work. If it is not doing well, fire the person. If the person has stolen something then treat the person as a thief should be treated. etc etc

  12. (1) In normal (polite) conversation. If I make a comment to someone, I implicitly invite that person to respond. I am not restricted in the comments that I make and thus the responder is not restricted in the response.
    In practice if when I speak to my neighbour, if he always responds by swearing at me I will stop speaking to him.
    So if I make a comment which I know or expect the media to publish, then I also invite the media to respond to my comments. If I dont like what the media says, then I should not speak to the media.
    (2) If I am a representative of the public, or conduct business in the name of the public, ( which elected official do), then those in whose name I act have the right to the information necessary for them be able to make an informed judgement as to whether I should be allowed to continue to represent them. If this person who represents me, has misrepresented themself, or is not fulfilling the trust that has been placed in them, then if this person fails to inform me of their misconduct, can it be wrong ro another person to tell me what the facts are.
    (3). Now in the case of the Minister of Health, she has said that beetroot, garlic, and onions are all that is required to combat aids, and that anti-rival drugs are a plot by the western world to poison the citizens of this land. She has also supported the use of vitamins in combating drugs and has publically supported the efforts of certain organizations in promoting their products. At this point the reader needs to decide as whether the above statements are fact or fiction. If fact, then should the law allow this person to hide the evidence of her
    misdeeds or misconduct.
    If fiction — firstly to require the publisher of the false information to retract the false claims, and to provide minister the opportunity to publish the facts and to require the publisher to show that the information publised was published in good faith, ( that is based on the publisher having expended the necessary effort to establish as far as is reasonable the accuracy of the report).
    (4) For public figures, the ability to sue in court should be severly limited, the defense that these people have is to make available for publication of the facts available in the situation so that the public can better judge whethet to vote for them in the future. Public figures should have nothing to hide in public affairs – they have a right to their personal privacy — but that is all.
    (5). Now the law and the lawyers and the statutes and the judgements have presented
    the above in a multiplicty of words and decrees and judgements to much so that it has become a very time consuming and costly procedure to establish the facts. The facts should speaka for themselves, how is the department of health doing. If it is doing well, keep up the good work. If it is not doing well, fire the person. If the person has stolen something then treat the person as a thief should be treated. etc etc

What do you think?

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