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Three Independent Newspapers executives are each suing Noseweek editor Martin Welz and his publishers for R350 000 in damages for claiming they were involved in, or knew about, an alleged “secret deal” and a R1 million-plus kickback over the sale of Newspaper House by auctioneers Auction Alliance.
They are Tony Howard, the Joburg-based chief executive of Independent News and Media (SA); Chris Whitfield, editor-in-chief (Cape); and Moegsien Williams, former Gauteng editor-in-chief, also based in Joburg. They were named in an article published in the July edition of Noseweek.
The defendants are Welz; Chaucer Publications, the owner, publisher and printer of print editions of Noseweek; and Magazine Marketing and Subscription Services, registrant of the www.noseweek.co.za website.
According to the summons that was served on Tuesday morning, the article had suggested that Independent Newspaper bosses had made “a backroom deal with Auction Alliance” to sell their two Cape Town buildings, one of them Newspaper House; that the Cape Argus management had negotiated a secret R1m-plus kickback from the sale of these buildings; and that Independent Newspaper management had “struck a secret deal” with Auction Alliance and its lawyers to ensure that this information would not become public knowledge.
According to the summons, these claims were wrongful and defamatory, and were intended to impute to readers and online viewers of Noseweek that the three executives were, inter alia, aware of and/or had participated in unlawful and dishonest conduct; had acted in a manner that impeded freedom of expression and responsible journalism; and had acted in a morally reprehensible manner.
Whitfield said on Tuesday: “We have given Noseweek every opportunity to correct the obvious inaccuracies contained in its article and the erroneous conclusions it has drawn. It has chosen not to.”
Welz said he was sorry that the issue had resulted in litigation but that he would defend the action. - Cape Argus