Independent settles with former editor Dasnois

Dr Iqbal Surve is the executive chairman of Independent Media. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Dr Iqbal Surve is the executive chairman of Independent Media. Picture: Ian Landsberg

Published May 9, 2016


Cape Town - The more than two-year long dispute between Independent Media and former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois came to an end on Monday when the parties agreed to a settlement in the Labour Court case.

Dasnois was removed from her post in December 2013 in the wake of the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The judge was informed in court on Monday that the matter had been settled and that the claim had been withdrawn.

Read: Media freedom cannot be divorced from transformation

In a statement issued on Monday following news of the settlement, Independent Media said: “Independent Media and former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois have this morning reached a settlement in the Labour Court case in which she was suing the company over her December 2013 removal from the post.

“Independent is satisfied that this conclusion represents a vindication of our consistent position, which is that the company has an absolute right to act against any editor who demonstrates poor editorial judgment, and that the adverse market performance of a newspaper is a legitimate reason for an editor’s removal.”

Independent Media and its chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé, however, defended the decision to axe Dasnois, citing a number of reasons, including her decision on how to cover the breaking news story of Mandela’s death, her newspaper title’s poor performance and a lack of newsroom diversity under her watch.

In a joint statement, the parties said: “In relation to the appropriateness of how the news of Nelson Mandela’s death was covered in the 6 December edition of the Cape Times, the parties have differing views.

“While independent Newspapers does not agree with the decision taken by Alide Dasnois, as editor, to publish a special wraparound, Independent Newspapers ackowledges the following: that her decision was not intended by her in any way to show disrespect to Nelson Mandela or his legacy…”

The company recognised her prerogative as editor but added that the parties disagreed on whether the exercising of her prerogative in this instance was “appropriate”.

Independent Media further withdrew all allegations of racism made against Dasnois.

In a separate statement, Independent Media outlined the events which led to Dasnois’ axing and the subsequent legal battle.

It said that senior management had in November of 2013 advised the company’s incoming chairman to remove Dasnois as a result of the paper’s “dismal performance”.

“In addition, the new chairman was also concerned with the lack of diversity in the Cape Times newsroom that Dasnois ran, with not a single African senior reporter or sub-editor at the paper,” Independent Media said. “This was out of line with the positioning of the company under its new owners.”

Then, on evening of December 5, 2013, South Africa was informed of the passing of Mandela and “in line with pre-existing Mandela coverage plans – similar to every other newspaper house in South Africa – Independent’s titles recalled all their front pages from the presses and redesigned these to lead with the news of Madiba’s passing.

“The exception to this in the Independent Group – and unique among all major papers here and across the world – was Dasnois’ Cape Times.

“For reasons only she will be able to explain, Dasnois refused to recall the first edition of the paper, and instead designed from scratch a four-page wraparound that was ready only for the second edition,” the company said. “The decision delayed the entire production and distribution of the Cape Times, leading to financial losses for the company.”

Independent Media further said that on the morning of December 6, the Cape Times was the “only pre-eminent paper of record in the world not to have the most important South African story of the last decade on its front page”.

“We maintain that this was an affront to the dignity and legacy of democratic South Africa’s founder, although Dasnois has subsequently claimed this was not her intention.

“We must also emphasise that every editor in the Independent group – and virtually every other journalist – disagreed with Dasnois’ decision despite her subsequent public posturing.”

The company said it viewed this “as gross negligent conduct unbecoming an editor of the premier paper of record for SA’s parliamentary capital, and on the basis of this error of judgment alone, Independent Media chairman Dr Iqbal Survé removed her from the Cape Times”.

Dasnois was later internally charged and found guilty of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty and dismissed from the company.

Dasnois subsequently sued the company in the Labour Court alleging discrimination and unfair dismissal, claiming R4 million as payment for 38 months’ salary.

The details of Monday’s settlement were not released.

Independent Media said it believed the matter of Dasnois’ decision on the night of December 5 should have been “ventilated in open court”.

“We have also held that Dasnois’ attempts to frame the matter as one of press freedom and editorial prerogative made it even more important to settle the matter in court.”

Independent said it remained committed to the principles of press freedom and media transformation in South Africa.


African News Agency

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