Independent Media has instructed its legal team to institute proceedings against Times Media Group. File photo: Leon Nicholas

Cape Town – Independent Media has instructed its legal team to institute proceedings against Times Media Group (TMG) following its refusal to retract a defamatory article, written by Ann Crotty, which was published in the Financial Mail and Business Live on February 23.

Several untrue and defamatory statements were contained in the article, “Breaking the News”, including allegations, innuendo and questions regarding Independent Media’s current financial standing and its ability to repay loans.

A significant portion of the article claims that Independent Media entered into deals with and sold profitable assets to an entity called Africa Media Group to the detriment of its shareholders.

Independent Media has no knowledge of the existence of this entity. It is clear that the intention of the article was to spread fake news about Independent Media, portray a picture of underhandedness and to create suspicion and discomfort among shareholders, readers and advertisers.

The article also suggests that Independent Media has diminished in stature and would enter into deals without there being a sound business rationale

Independent Media has questioned the integrity and journalistic ethics of the writer and the motive of those publishing entities of TMG, which published the article.

Since the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013, Sekunjalo Group has invested in excess of R200 million in technological and digital advancements as well as skills training and development for journalists as part of its strategy to migrate the Independent Media brand from a largely print media to a multi-platform media group. This investment came with the full approval and support of the existing shareholders who will benefit from the increased value created as a result of Sekunjalo’s additional financial injection into Independent Media since the acquisition.

Commenting on the matter, Chief of Staff of Independent Media, Zenariah Barends said: “I have been at Independent since February 2014. Prior to me joining the company and since, there has been a barrage of attacks against us, including personal attacks on Dr (Iqbal) Survé, by the same groups and individuals. I have to wonder at the reasons for the consistent negative reporting about our company these past three years.

“It is certainly not normal. I would like to put it down to a case of sour grapes, as a number of our detractors were former employees at Independent Media. But the frequency and volume of negativity and malice, suggests something more sinister.”

She said the company would institute the necessary steps to sue the parties mentioned. “We want to get on with our business and build a media house where South Africans who are interested in developing our democracy know they have a trusted source of information.”

ANA, the news agency, last week said it planned to sue TMG for R500m.

BUSINESS REPORT