Attacks on Independent newspapers chairman Dr Iqbal Surve are still coming in hard and fast, four years in the hot seat. Dr Surve took over the newspaper group in 2013 with a consortium of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment investors backed by governments Public Investment Corporation.
The latest allegations come from seasoned business reporter and former employee of independent newspapers Ann Crotty. In her opinion piece on the financial mail site titled Breaking news. Is Iqbal stripping Independent’s assets? Crotty throws serious Inferences of corruption that Surve is selling off profitable divisions of the media group to his own sekunjalo company to the detriment of other shareholders especially Public Investment Corporations. The allegations of sleaze have no named sources, its speculation, carries no evidence of any wrong doing on the part of Surve.
The on-going attacks, slander and insults on the former medical doctor turned businessman and philanthropist have irritated Executive Editor of Independent Media’s Business unit Adri Senekal de Wet. Forcing her to come to her bosses defence, writing an opinion piece / open letter to Crotty calling her Ann Grumpy, disgruntled former employee, and a wane-be independent purchaser. De Wet claiming that Crotty wanted to be part of the consortium that would buy the newspaper group.
The attacks on Dr Surve make for an interesting read begging the question about the priming and framing of the country’s agenda by media houses. The media industry’s narrative of “blacks are corrupt” has really escalated after the Sekunjalo group’s acquisition of the newspapers.
Dr Surve bought independent newspapers from its Irish owners in 2013. Owners of The Star, Cape Times, and Daily Dispatch are Sekunjalo group, Public Investments Corporation (25%), trade unions including COSATU’s Kopano Ke Matla, the SACTWU’s Investment group, FAWU’s Basebenzi investments and a 10 % stake owned by employees.
The 55% of the company is owned by the consortium in which 63% is shared by the abovementioned groups, the other 37% is owned by a number of smaller shareholders namely the western cape Black Business Chamber, a number of independent South African women’s business community organisations, Sekunjalo digital media, Mandla Mandela’s Mvezo Development trust, the uMkhonto Wesizwe Military Association, western cape development trust and the remaining 20% is owned by a Chinese group.
Crotty’s Ad Hominen feature is nothing but amateurish sleuth reportage, meant to appeal to certain sector’s popular opinion. Just as De Wet’s response to it doesn’t help the debate its about mudslinging throwing accusations at Crotty nothing short of Lumka Oliphant’s Facebook rant defending her boss. It’s admirable but it smells of kissing butt especially when it is not factually sound and backed by evidence.
Crotty is one of many white journalists that have left the media group since the new company’s black owners took over; they have been attacking it from all its competitors’ different publications. These personal attacks on their former employer question their journalistic integrity: from a young journalist it looks like the spread of uncontrollable fake news to hurt, ruin the reputation of trans-formative agenda, a good story of a black businessman. Wikipedia instead of giving a definition of journalistic integrity it lists these as what defines it: objectivity, sources, accuracy and standards of factual reporting, slander and libel considerations, harm limitation principle and lastly presentation.
Time Warner says “our network news brands are leaders in practicing, promoting, and defending the highest principles of journalistic integrity.” And goes on, “much of popular journalism today comes with a political or ideological slant: it aims to win people to a point of view not necessarily to an understanding of the facts.”
These journalists of old guard, want to win the public to that view, transformation is dirty, corrupt, and wrong, that the status quo of the country should not be touched. But what about the media platforms that carry this message? What role do they play in this view? Some of the journalists have taken the Independent to press ombudsman for the group’s reportage and won.
In late 2016 the independent media withdrew from the press council among its reasons criticizing it for not reintroducing the waiver clause to the press code scrapped by Chief Justice Pius Langa. The group decided to hire an internal ombudsman to adjudicate its own publications and online platforms.
The waiver clause relinquished a complainant’s right to institute civil damages against media houses.
Fake news will kill the journalism; it’s premised on deception, propaganda type news, misinformation, and even hoax news. It will erode the public trust on media.