Independent Media chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said one of the challenges in South Africa was to tell an African narrative in a media landscape dominated by relics of the apartheid era.
The board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has called on the South African government to ensure an environment that better protects media freedom and the independence of journalists, notably in the face of proposed legislation that threatens a free press.

WAN, which represents more than 18 000 publications worldwide, concludes its meeting in Durban tomorrow.

President Tomas Brunegård said there has been progress in transformation and women empowerment in the media, but it is not enough.

Speaking at a dinner, Independent Media chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said one of the challenges in South Africa was to tell an African narrative in a media landscape dominated by relics of the apartheid era.

“Media transformation in South Africa is very slow,” he said. Much of the ownership remained similar to what it had been during pre-1994, with senior management, editorial patterns and narratives neither reflecting the story of a new country, nor embracing its aspirations and diversity.

Survé said he believed Independent Media was a lone star with its rapid pace of transformation. Elsewhere, he said, there were journalists and editors who tried to make a difference, but they were regrettably “few and far between”. It was necessary to have greater black representation in the media and to change the narrative about black people to one which was not negative.

Survé said if South Africans didn’t tell their stories, it would be those who colonised them under apartheid who would continue to tell the stories.

He called on the government to “investigate monopolies that exist in the media, and the impact these monopolies have in preventing entrepreneurs who are black from coming into the media sector and from trying to earn a decent living”.

Independent Media’s attempt to build a different narrative and challenge the pattern of white media ownership had come under attack from its competitors, he said.

During a breakfast meeting on the sidelines yesterday, the debate continued with a panel discussion based on Hennie van Vuuren’s book, Apartheid Guns and Money, an exposé on the economic crimes of the apartheid regime. Using released secret documents, Van Vuuren details how the pre-1994 government defended the apartheid system through the use of journalists, spies and bankers.

Survé, who was a part of the discussion, said the dominant media groups in the country remained embedded in the apartheid regime. Independent’s competitors were partisan in their coverage of South Africa, in opposition to principles of impartiality.