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by Herman Manson (@marklives) Nobody really thought this month could get any worse for the South African media industry. But Independent Newspapers has upped the ante and the South African National Editors’ Forum is on the warpath.

Recap

  • There was The Huffington Post South Africa posting a video clip in which Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was taken to suggest that South African journalists Anton Harber and Thandeka Gqubule where apartheid agents. No context or right of reply were offered and HuffPost’s mea culpa couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.
  • Then the tone-deaf Sunday Times headlined “Blonde Ambition” as a description of a female politician’s amibitions.
  • The Mail & Guardian ran three different iterations of its story on the death of Ramon Leon (father of former Democratic Alliance leader, Tony Leon), revising the original not once but twice. What started on Monday with “Hanging judge dies” ended on Thursday with “Ramon Leon, Tony Leon’s father, has died” and “Tribute: A brave, ‘activist’  judge“.

https://twitter.com/LaurieAClaase/status/986936278682947586

  • Independent Newspapers-owned Business Report ran two versions of same story by a “staff reporter” (with an editor’s note and opinion inserted into original ‘news’ story) — no note to readers explaining changes, either.
  • Finally, Business Day ran a tone deaf editorial which couldn’t decide on whether it’s mounting a defense of ex-Imperial CEO, Mark Lamberti, or of employees victimised by corporate execs.

Independent Newspapers today

But Independent Newspapers has upped the ante by running the same story, minus any byline, across most of its titles today, Friday, 20 April 2018, in which it claims to have uncovered “dirty tricks campaign similar to those employed by Stratcom during the apartheid era to demonise Struggle activists like Winnie Madikizela- Mandela – but in this instance, the campaign was aimed at Independent Media and its executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé.”

As per the IOL version, the writers — whom one would presume to have been the senior editors and executive management of the group since no journalists are credited — smears journalists from Tiso Blackstar, Daily Maverick, and Amabhungane: Ann Crotty, Sam Sole and Tim Cohen are all specifically mentioned.

Survé recently failed to list Sagarmatha Technologies, a group which would ultimately have included Independent Newspapers.

Mail & Guardian: Sagarmatha and other fairy tales

In a statement issued today, the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) notes it “is deeply concerned and disgusted by the labelling of certain prominent South African journalists and editors as ‘Stratcom’ agents in a front-page article published by all major Independent Media-owned newspapers on Friday. This is the second time in as many weeks that prominent journalists have been called ‘Stratcom’ agents without any proof being provided by those making the accusations. At issue this time is the unsuccessful listing of Sagarmatha Technologies on the JSE by the owners of Independent Media.

“The orchestrated way in which all the group’s newspapers published this defamatory piece today shows something else at play, which purpose cannot be to serve the public,” SANEF notes. “SANEF will urgently engage our members at Independent Media to convey our deep concern about this unfair episode and gain a better understanding of the issues at play that are seemingly not serving journalism.”

An audio statement recorded by the SANEF chairperson, Mahlatse Mahlase, on the labelling of certain prominent South African journalists and editors as “Stratcom” agents in a front-page article published by all major Independent Media-owned newspapers on Friday, 20 April 2018. Supplied by SANEF.

 

Full SANEF statement

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is deeply concerned and disgusted by the labelling of certain prominent South African journalists and editors as “Stratcom” agents in a front-page article published by all major Independent Media-owned newspapers on Friday.This is the second time in as many weeks that prominent journalists have been called “Stratcom” agents without any proof being provided by those making the accusations.At issue this time is the unsuccessful listing of Sagarmatha Technologies on the JSE by the owners of Independent Media.

The faces and names of South African journalists who have reported critically on this transaction are published alongside those of Vic McPherson and other masterminds of the apartheid state’s Stratcom operation whose main aim was to sow division and spread lies in the anti-apartheid movement.This led to the death of many activists and the manipulation of facts to suit the agenda of the oppressor.

SANEF believes to equate this unlawful and corrupt institution with the work of critical journalists, playing their watchdog role in investigating private sector irregularities, is not only defamatory, but disgusting.This is a sad day for South African journalism. The Independent Media group has been a critical part of the media landscape for decades. Some of the finest journalism to come out of this country has been produced by journalists working on titles like The Star, Cape Times and The Mercury.

The orchestrated way in which all the group’s newspapers published this defamatory piece today shows something else at play, which purpose cannot be to serve the public. SANEF will urgently engage our members at Independent Media to convey our deep concern about this unfair episode and gain a better understanding of the issues at play that are seemingly not serving journalism.

SANEF will further write to the Public Investment Corporation, a main shareholder in Independent Media (to the tune of R1 billion in equity stakes, loans and converted debt), to urgently express our deep concerns about the lapse of journalistic principles and standards at this important voice in the media landscape.

The PIC invests money on behalf of government employees in projects to grow and strengthen democracy. We believe that labelling bona fide journalists “Stratcom” agents for investigating a private sector transaction fundamentally undermines this purpose.

SANEF stands in solidarity with editors and journalists within the Independent Group who value editorial independence but are seemingly powerless to stop these stories.

 Social media reaction

 

Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com.

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Published by Herman Manson

MarkLives.com is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter - http://twitter.com/marklives

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