In the past few weeks, Independent Media's investigative unit reported on emails and bank statements relating to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign. Screengrab.
In the past few weeks, Independent Media's investigative unit reported on emails and bank statements relating to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign. Screengrab.

Criticism smacks of sour grapes from our competitors

By Sifiso Mahlangu Time of article published Aug 28, 2019

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Johannesburg - For some time writers Ed Herbst, Jackie Cameron and Adriaan Basson have made it their project to insult and injure the person and the business of Dr Iqbal Survé.

The campaign against Independent Media and its journalists is developed through fictitious and vicious argument and opinion pieces by people we considered colleagues.

Now, while it is easy and comfortable to view this as the cut and thrust of competition in a highly disrupted media industry, the tenor of the campaign waged by this coterie of journalists smacks of a sinister agenda.

In the past few weeks our investigative unit reported on emails and bank statements relating to president Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign.

The stories were in the public interest and any other publication - had they had the scoop - would have published it. In Basson’s own confession, had he got the scoop he would have published it!

These stories have surfaced the age-old shtick that Herbst had been peddling for a few years.

In the first instance, the attempt to discredit Dr Survé, Independent Media and its journalists is driven by the battle for advertisers and profits. It makes business sense for the editor-in-chief of News24 to stir up accusations and slanderous opinions about a rival media group.

Every media outlet wants an exceptional story, Independent Media has been leading the course. Our stories have been the subject of discussion, debate and social media trending conversations. How do these narrators respond? They label our reporting on the CR17 campaign funds as a Zuma fight-back strategy.

The need to control the public narrative without challenge has led Adriaan Basson down an aberrant path in journalism.

According to Basson, we were wrong to tell the nation about the interests of those individuals who gave money to the CR17 campaign or that some who funded his campaign have now found comfortable positions in his government.

According to Basson, we should have not written about the head of eNCA giving R2 million to the president’s campaign because to Basson it wasn’t perplexing and bizarre that the head of the television news channel gave so much money to a party presidential campaign.

For this clique of writers to suggest that Independent Media hired two journalists to administer a fightback campaign insults the hundreds of journalists who have through many years published news without fear or favour. We did not start publishing news when President Ramaphosa took office, we aim to continue publishing news that is credible.

For Basson, it is a hit where it hurts the most, in the numbers.

We are not going to stop our thorough and in-depth news coverage that is in the public interest.

We can downplay the antagonism of the likes of Herbst, Cameron and Basson as industry jealousy or competition taken to an extreme and ugly end but we have to also ask questions of those bodies that claim to be representing the public interest in having a free and fair media.

Why is Sanef ignoring the victimisation of our journalists by Basson? Why is Sanef not rebuking the attacks on Independent Media’s owner by rival editors? Why is Sanef not defending Independent Media’s right to publish news?

We all know that there is a mountain to climb before we can state unequivocally that South Africa has a diverse and robust media that is reflective of its citizenry, but it is painful to see how far some of our competitors will go to maintain the status quo.

How far they will go to criticise good journalism simply because it does not come from their stable of media platforms or newspapers?

How low they will stoop to keep media monopolistic and with a single narrative?

Why are a handful of individuals so determined to destroy the reputation of Dr Iqbal Survé and Independent Media? Is it pure economics? Or is it the racist pursuit of ensuring that a white liberal narrative is the dominant South African story? Or is there a dirtier hand at play?

Distant from any factual base, Basson, Herbst and Cameron’s battle is actually with black writers and black media owners.

All of them must get used to it, we are not going anywhere!

* Sifiso Mhlangu is head of Independent Media's Political Bureau.

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