Independent Media has hit back at allegations made in a News24 article that its editors and senior political staff have hatched a plan to topple President Cyril Ramaphosa, come the ANC's elective conference set for later this year.
On Thursday, News24 published an article claiming that the group's editors and political staff had a meeting earlier in the week to discuss 'Operation Hlanza', an apparent media strategy on how the group will cover the elections.
The article states that the plan was authored by The Star editor, Sifiso Mahlangu and is anti-Ramaphosa in its stance, giving preference of coverage to Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
'Operation Hlanza', according to the News24 article, touts Dlamini Zuma as the best candidate for the job and further states that the Public Protector could still find against Ramaphosa regarding the Phala Phala investigation.
Slamming the article, Editor-in-Chief of Independent Media Aziz Hartley, said the facts contained in the leaked plan, seem to have been ignored in favour of assumptions on the part of News24.
"And we all know what happens when things are assumed," Hartley added, urging News24 to correct its headline.
"We refute it [the article] in its entirety. News24’s so-called exclusive report on a leaked document detailing Independent Media’s plan on how the organisation is going to cover the upcoming ANC elections, is a sensational piece of misdirection and clearly shows your political bent," he said.
"Knowing which side your bread is buttered, News24 has presented to the public and to the country’s executive, a piece of mischievous fiction," Hartley added.
Calling the article highly divisive, he pointed out that the article deliberately misleads the South African public and the country’s executive.
"Nowhere in the leaked document does it state or even infer that Independent Media is looking to 'topple President Ramaphosa'. To suggest otherwise, as you have done with this headline and article, is gross misrepresentation.
Further, this is not a “secret” plan, since it has been shared widely within the Independent Media Group as a proposal inviting input," Hartley stated.
"I am sure News24 and every other media house in the country has done likewise.
We would like to remind News24 that Indy is not a delegate at the conference, it has no voting rights and therefore your assertion that a simple proposed media coverage plan could be used to depose President Ramaphosa, is absurd.
As the writer of the article in question notes, the press are bound by their profession and a code of ethics (written and unwritten), to report on the facts and without opinion," Hartley said.