Paramount and Ichikowitz win case against media for false reporting

The Press Council of South Africa ruled that ‘Die Vrye Weekblad’, a South African online publication, breached various clauses of the Press Code that governs South African media in its reporting on the African Peace Mission to Ukraine and Russia, in June 2023.


Image: Paramount Group

The publication and its editor were instructed to apologise to Paramount and Ichikowitz as well as retract and correct a number of the allegations one of which related to the existence of business links between Russia and Paramount, the global aerospace and technology company, and its founder, Ivor Ichikowitz. 

In mid-June of 2023, seven African nations participated in the Ukraine Peace Initiative and sent representatives, including several heads of state, to Kyiv and Moscow in an effort to de-escalate the war. 

Die Vrye Weekblad (VWB) made a series of false allegations and statements that were found to be in breach of various clauses of the Press Code. These included the following:

·      The allegation that the Ukraine Peace Mission was purportedly orchestrated by Ichikowitz who was termed as being a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, when in fact no such relationship exists; 

·      Speculation that arms were allegedly loaded by Paramount onto a Russian ship that controversially docked in Simon's Town, South Africa. A subsequent investigation ordered by the President of South African found that no arms were loaded onto the ship;

·      The allegation that Paramount specialised in arms exports to and from Russia based on the existence of a transportation company in Russia, also named Paramount. Paramount has never supplied any military equipment to Russia; and 

·      The allegation that Paramount supplied arms to Russia through a joint venture in Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan Paramount Engineering. The company has never supplied any military equipment to Russia. 

Neither Paramount nor Ichikowitz was approached for comment or given the right of reply before publication.

Responding to the ruling, Paramount stated: “We welcome the landmark ruling by South Africa’s Press Council which sends a clear message about the boundaries of acceptable journalistic practices, which not only impact the parties involved but also society as a whole, reinforcing the crucial role of a free and responsible press in a democratic society. 

“By ordering the Vrye Weekblad to apologise, retract and correct its false statements, and requiring the media to verify speculative information and provide organisations and individuals with a right to reply before publication, the Press Council reaffirms the fundamental principles of accuracy, transparency, and balance in reporting. 

“The ruling not only safeguards the integrity of journalism but also upholds the rights of individuals and organisations to protect their reputation and ensure that accurate information is disseminated to the public.”