For the record, Independent Media has never been mentioned in any testimony at the State Capture commission, say the group’s editors. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
For the record, Independent Media has never been mentioned in any testimony at the State Capture commission, say the group’s editors. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Independent Media Group’s response to SANEF’s hypocrisy

By Time of article published Jan 31, 2021

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In a press statement titled "SANEF Calls for an Investigation and Transparency on Claims of SSA Funding for Media Outlets", the media watch body has deliberately lied, stating that: "ANA is part of Independent Media group" – this is the Independent Media Group’s Editors’ response:

As the editors of the print publications within the Independent Media Group, we outright rebuff and reject the statement issued by the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) in a Nazi propagandist (Joseph Goebbels) style on 27 January. We also denounce with contempt, the subsequent radio interview between SANEF secretary general, Mahlatse Mahlase on Primedia’s Cape Talk Radio show on January 28, with presenter, Kieno Kammies.

Mahlase was interviewed about SANEF’s response to recent revelations at the Zondo Commission into State Capture, that seemed to implicate the African News Agency (ANA). During the interview, both Mahlase and Kammies, deliberately confused and melded matters that have zero relation to Independent Media.

As such, SANEF deliberately drags Independent Media into the ongoing State Security Agency (SSA) testimony currently before the Commission, using the ANA issue - through a suspect conflation tactic.

SANEF, in its statement, further called on ANA "to provide a portfolio of stories published by Independent Media in executing this (SSA) contract". SANEF states this knowing full well that Independent Media has never been mentioned as a party to any SSA involvement.

For the record, we wish to point out the following:

Independent Media and the African News Agency (ANA) are two completely separate business entities. Independent Media is a subscriber to ANA, which in turn provides syndicated content to Independent Media. Other clients that have subscribed to ANA in the last few years include CTP, the SABC and eNCA.

While we believe that this is common knowledge, we are of the view that the deliberate conflation of the two entities as one company, is directly aimed at causing reputational and operational harm to Independent Media. This blatant inaccuracy and distortion are contained in SANEF’s statement and reinforced during the radio interview.

We are of the view that SANEF is aware of this error but have purposefully chosen to portray Independent Media and ANA as one organization, in order to damage the company, its employees and its readers’ perceptions.

This misrepresentation has been further entrenched through SANEF newly elected chair Sibusiso Ngalwa’s recent piece in the Daily Maverick 168 newspaper and carried online via the Daily Maverick. It should be of grave concern to all, that the head of SANEF is unaware, or deliberately confusing, such an important fact.

While Independent Media has requested ANA to conduct a full investigation regarding its alleged involvement in Project Wave, which was referred to at the Zondo Commission by former minister Sydney Mafumadi, we are firm in our belief that none of Independent Media’s print or online titles were in any way, whatsoever, exposed to the content generated by Project Wave.

For the record, Independent Media has never been mentioned in any testimony at the State Capture commission.

In the radio interview, Mahlase also insinuated that some editors in this group are in fear of joining SANEF. We can only conclude that this lie is aimed at further sowing division and perpetuating an old myth. Mahlase does not represent or speak for us and we are more than capable of speaking the truth of our own convictions for ourselves.

We also question Kammies’ own journalistic ethics for failing the most basic principle in journalism; that is, to provide the other side the right of reply. Had he afforded us this opportunity; we would have set the record straight. However, it seems he did not want to spoil his "narrative" with facts. We found it alarming in the extreme, that Mahlase aided and abetted him in this failure by also not requesting our participation.

This is in total contradiction to SANEF’s very own recently released report on media ethics and integrity, issued by Judge Satchwell. This, however, does not come as a surprise to us, as Kammies has, on several occasions, also failed to seek our view on matters involving Independent Media.

It is hypocritical, therefore, for SANEF to agree, through Ngalwa, to stop the slander, malicious and baseless comments aimed at causing severe reputational harm to our Group and its employees, while on the other hand, some of its members continue with their attacks and misinformation - for reasons only known to them.

SANEF is a non-government organization and a non-regulatory body that has positioned itself as representative of the media in this country. It does not, however, represent all the media in this country.

We believe that SANEF's statement supports an ongoing, relentless campaign by our critics and competitors, to smear and discredit Independent Media journalists, editors, and the organisation as a whole. SANEF’s actions are therefore unprincipled and in total conflict with the media ethics and integrity that it professes to champion.

In conclusion, we, the editors of Independent Media, remain committed to our Press Code, which states in the preamble: “Independent Media wants news to be reported accurately, the publication of opinions that are based on fact and honestly motivated and reportage that recognises the vulnerable of society and that upholds the laws of South Africa and the Constitution.”

It is our consensus that SANEF’s comments are biased, unwarranted and they only serve to reinforce our view that SANEF itself, is an integral part of an ongoing agenda to undermine Independent Media.

We wish to assure our readers, advertisers and subscribers that our titles have and always will, maintain the highest journalistic standards in providing news that is truthful, open, engaging and always, INDEPENDENT.

Signed by:

Aneez Salie, editor-in-chief

Mazwi Xaba, managing editor, KZN

Adri Senekal de Wet, executive editor, Business Report

Siyavuya Mzantsi, editor Cape Times

Aziz Hartley, editor Cape Argus

Taariq Halim, editor Daily Voice

Jade Otto, editor Weekend Argus Saturday

Melanie Peters, editor Weekend Argus Sunday

Piet Rampedi, editor Pretoria News

Sifiso Mahlangu, editor The Star

Kashiefa Ajam, editor Saturday Star

Zingisa Mkhuma, editor Sunday Independent

Philani Makhanya, editor The Mercury

Ayanda Mdluli, editor Daily News

Kiki Ntuli, editor Isolezwe

Aakash Bramdeo, editor Post

Zoubair Ayoob, Independent on Saturday

Sandile Mdadane, Sunday Tribune


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