Dr Iqbal Survé. Picture: IOL

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Iqbal Survé slams Times Media over ‘commercial vendetta’

Staff Reporter

Independent Media‘s Executive Chairman Dr Iqbal Survé slammed Times Media for a commercial vendetta against him over an editorial in The Times which cast aspersions on the character of Independent Media and Survé and the media house’s decision to leave the industry’s self-regulatory body, the Press Council.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Survé said that the recent coverage in The Times had everything to do with a personal vendetta against Independent Media, because their publications are suffering from a shrinking circulation while Independent had actually grown 1,4%. He slammed insinuations that the Cape-based publications in the Independent Media stable had been instructed to cover the #RhodesMustFall movement in a particular way, saying his editors had editorial independence, before alluding to Songezo Zibi and Phylicia Oppelt, the former editors of Business Day and Sunday Times, widely seen as the stable’s flagship publications.

The statement also said that there was nothing untoward about the group’s decision to boot the Press Council.

“There had been nothing sinister about Independent’s decision to move away from the Press Ombud and set up its own self-regulatory structure. The decision and the implementation of its own structure has been communicated throughout with readers and very well received. The public participation in particular on the adjudication panels and the willingness to serve, of an eminent South African of the stature of Justice Zac Yakoob, fresh from his retirement from the Constitutional Court bench, prove this. Any attempt to try to paint this as anything else is pure malice and is designed to impugn the integrity of Independent Media,” read the statement.

Survé said that ever since Sekunjalo disrupted the established patterns of media ownership and monopoly in South Africa, there has been a sustained campaign against Independent Media. He also said history will judge Times Media for taking a clear side in the political battle in the country, as they do their best to try capitalise on future government advertising which has dwindled along with their circulation.

Independent Media,” he said “will tell the full story without fear, favour or prejudice, since the truth remains the cornerstone for our publications and journalists”.

Full statement below:

 

Subject: Independent Media Statement – Times Media Group

INDEPENDENT Media has hit out at reports by rival media group Times Media Group, which it believes are nothing but a commercially driven vendetta – in the market for readers and advertisers.

 

Times Media, publishers of the Sunday Times, Business Day and The Times, yesterday published an editorial in The Times, casting aspersions on the character of Independent Media  and it’s executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé and the group’s decision to remove itself from the jurisdiction of the self-regulatory body, the Press Council, last year.

 

The day before, The Times had published a report on an extract from a book by former Free State University, Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen,  which included  a number of  interviews with Vice-Chancellors about the recent student movement protests in the tertiary sector. In it, Jansen interviewed Dr Max Price, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), who accused the Cape Times and Cape Argus of running an anti-UCT campaign, allegedly a personal vendetta against the university and Price’s administration.

 

Responding to the article, Dr Survé, who has received two awards for his services to UCT, said that Price’s statements were bizarre and that he had blatantly lied and would be challenged as such in court.

 

“We had nothing to do with the #RhodesMustFall movement, we never paid any of the struggle leaders’ legal fees and we certainly never instructed either the editor of Cape Times or the Cape Argus to take any view whatsoever regarding the coverage of the protests. Our editors have editorial independence unlike those at Times Media. Ask Phylicia Oppelt and Songezo Zibi,” said Dr Survé.

 

The article, he said, was a separate issue and an abuse of journalism as part of a  commercial war against Independent by Times Media where its publications have seen their circulation and readership figures plummet,  while newspapers in the Independent Media have remained stable or in fact actually grown 1,4 % overall,according to the latest circulation figures released by ABC.

 

The co-author of The Times’ report, Dave Chambers, was a former senior Independent Media production journalist who was disgruntled and bitter after his departure from Independent to Times Media.  He at one time set up and ran a parody Twitter account, ‘Ducks Waiting’, which was created for no other reason than to show up errors in the group’s newspapers. Independent Media challenges Times Media to deny this.

It speaks volumes about their so-called commitment to journalistic ethics, when they allow someone with a proven agenda to continue to do exactly the same thing in their own newspapers but then call it journalism. This follows similar attacks by other former disgruntled employees of Independent Media, who now work for Times Media.

 

There had been nothing sinister about Independent’s decision to move away from the Press Ombud and set up its own self-regulatory structure.

 

The decision and the implementation of its own structure has been communicated throughout with readers and very well received. The public participation in particular on the adjudication panels and the willingness to serve, of an eminent South African of the stature of Justice Zac Yakoob, fresh from his retirement from the Constitutional Court bench, prove this. Any attempt to try to paint this as anything else is pure malice and is designed to impugn the integrity of Independent Media.

 

Independent Media made no secret of its uneasiness with the double jeopardy involved in the current Press Ombud process, or of the numerous efforts made to have this resolved. When this could not be resolved, Independent Media disclosed its intention to withdraw. Any attempt to paint this as anything else is just pure malice.

Survé said that with the fast-changing, disruptive media environment, the war for readers and advertisers was reaching fever-pitch with media houses, especially Times Media threatened by the success of Independent Media. This success was demonstrated last week, when Independent Media was the recipient of the “Best in Africa” Media Award at the INMA conference in New York.

 

There has been a sustained campaign against Independent and Dr Survé ever since Sekunjalo disrupted the established patterns of media ownership and monopoly in South Africa. Independent Media has been subjected to a vicious, immoral, disgusting turf war, personal and commercially based campaign, based on nothing more than innuendo and lies.  Its only “crime” is that it dared to challenge the established patterns of media ownership in South Africa.

In the last two weeks alone,Times Media continued to perpetuate lies, the most recent being the departure of Wally Mbhele as Sunday Independent editor and the outrageous and defamatory comments by Max Price.

This sustained campaign by Times Media leaves an obvious trail with one end in mind, to discredit Independent Media by discrediting Dr Survé. It won’t work. The intention is to divert Independent Media from its commercial goal, which is to make a success of our business for all its stakeholders. We will not be diverted and we will remain focused as a company with good journalism and always acting with the utmost integrity.

Dr Survé said, most importantly the final arbiter of ethical journalism are the readers who aren’t fools. “It is clear that Times Media’s plummeting circulation is a vote of no confidence by their readers. This has followed declining advertising spend at Times Media.”

Times Media was the largest recipient of government advertising, on which they depended and its current partisan campaign against the democratically elected government is just another form of crony capitalism. By pushing for a change in government they hope to recover their ad spend. The irony is that Independent Media has built it’s business without the need for government adverting.  Hence Independent Media is able to provide its readers with trustful, accurate and fair journalism which include a diversity of opinions.

 

Independent Media has taken a decision not to take sides in the factional political battles raging in our country, unlike Times Media. History will show that Times Media and its journalists have lost all integrity and have propagated a partisan political agenda in the hope of receiving commercial benefit in the future. This is crony capitalism at its worst, masquerading as journalism. Independent Media will tell the full story without fear, favour or prejudice, since the truth remains the cornerstone for our publications and journalists.

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