Independent Media presents its case to SCoF, restates threat to media freedom
CAPE TOWN – CAPE TOWN – Independent Media on Wednesday observed how peculiar it was, that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), claiming to act for pensioners, had instituted summons against SIM and Independent Media and had not offered any support or attempt to defend media freedom and journalism.
The company said this in a presentation to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF) on Wednesday, which restated the danger to media freedom and diversity of views, if Independent Media were to be shrouded or muzzled, to become just another media house representing the minority in South Africa.
“This constant desire to silence Independent Media highlights the very reason why the PIC was interested in investing in the publishing house in the first place – the essential requirement for a transformed media space representative of all South Africans and one that is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers with the telling of the truth – about people and situations affecting South Africa,” reads the company’s statement.
Independent Media’s commitment to integrity, transparency and good governance in its dealings with the PIC, was further underlined in the candid presentation to Parliament’s SCoF.
Independent Media submitted a detailed report to SCoF in response to Minister Tito Mboweni’s suggestion to Parliament that “The Sekunjalo Group” be afforded an opportunity to address matters raised out of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation. Independent Media, through the Sekunjalo Group, requested the session with SCoF to present its side of the story.
In the presentation, a proactive measure by Independent Media, the publisher opened by clarifying its naming convention – having been invited as “The Sekunjalo Group” – and correcting ongoing misperceptions in this regard.
“For clarity, it was a special purpose vehicle – Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) – that was involved in the purchase of Independent Media from the Irish owners in 2013 and not The Sekunjalo Group itself,” said Takudzwa Hove, the company’s chief operations officer after the presentation.
Critically and fundamental to the matter at hand, Independent Media underlined that the PIC was no longer an investor or a shareholder in SIM nor Independent Media itself, having transmuted its interests to a stake in Sagarmatha several years ago. SIM has now been renamed as Independent Media Consortium.
“Given the lack of ownership or direct involvement in Independent Media, consideration by SCoF needs to be given as to why the PIC is hell-bent on wasting taxpayers money with expensive litigation – perhaps it is because the PIC, under new leadership, has taken a hostile approach to Independent Media and Sagarmatha,” said Hove.
Independent Media conveyed its willingness and desire for all parties to work together for the good of democracy, requesting that it be accorded the same level of respect and support as its competitors.
“Continuous efforts to eradicate Independent Media are not beneficial to anyone, least of all the more than 1 500 employees who stand to lose their livelihoods which would further add to rising unemployment stats.
“Twenty-seven years into democracy and the very company that has gone the extra mile to create a transformed media is being persecuted and vilified. The question Independent Media keeps coming back to, and once again presented to SCoF, is why?
“It is ironic therefore, that those such as the self-appointed media watchdog, Sanef, who preach media freedom, are now also actively engaged in preventing that from happening,” said Hove.
He said, as an assurance that media ethics and that all sides of a story could be told and that there was recourse for the times in which opinions between the media and readers diverge, Independent Media had a robust and efficient Press Ombudsman.
“This office is staffed with a cohort of highly respected industry professionals. To question Independent Media, is to question the pedigree and ethics of each of the people involved – all of whom, are above reproach.
“Independent Media, as the single biggest print media organisation in South Africa, commands an impressive audience reach. It is precisely this, that makes it both a desired asset and a would-be weapon of mass destruction in the hands of people whose political views do not necessarily embrace a free and fair and equitable society,” said Hove.
As the matter is before the courts, Independent Media’s management was unable to comment further.
Independent Media concluded its presentation by requesting that Parliament resist all attempts to curtail media freedom and diversity in South Africa, and that it be allowed to go about its business of bringing the news to the people – truthfully and transparently.