DR IQBAL SURVÉ HITS BACK AT TIMES MEDIA
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 its executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé, and the group’s decision last year to remove itself from the jurisdiction of the self-regulatory body, the Press Council.
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 the extract, Jansen interviewed Dr Max Price, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, 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 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 figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
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 was 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 Zak 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.
Dr 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 won 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, a personal and commercially based campaign, based on nothing more than innuendo and lies. Its only “crime” was that it dared to challenge the established patterns of media ownership in South Africa.
MEDIA WAR: Independent Media’s executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé responds to Times Media.