Koos Bekker – Unveiling the elephant in the newsroom

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

Published Jun 26, 2023


By Feroza Petersen and J. Edwards*

Over the years Naspers and its subsidiary, Media24 have been the key masterminds of a deliberate attempt to discredit Independent Media and its chair, Dr Iqbal Survé. Their relentless barrage of false claims, accusations and defamatory “news” stories have been misleading the South African people for long enough now.

It is time to expose their plot. It’s time to address the elephant in the room.

Recent changes in the South African media environment have exposed their nefarious and underhanded intent and the worrisome decline of media plurality and not to mention, the serious ramifications for democracy in South Africa, are now unveiled. It provides you with some indicators that expose their crafty strategies and their devious tactics, revealing the alarming erosion of media plurality and the grave implications for democracy in South Africa.

Naspers' Historical Influence

Naspers, with its troubled legacy as a mouthpiece for apartheid propaganda, has long held significant sway over South Africa's media landscape. Whilst it tries its hardest to paint this as its past, its control over a vast array of print, digital, and broadcasting platforms has allowed it to continue to shape public opinion and control narratives to its advantage. The propaganda machine is far from dead, in fact its rusty gears and greasy wheels are still churning out distorted narratives even today, through its various mouthpieces.

Whilst Naspers has issued apologies for “being on the wrong side of history”, there has never been any reparations made for the major role they played in empowering the apartheid government and disenfranchising millions of Black South Africans. On the profits earned by the propaganda machines, sits Koos Bekker with a current net worth of 2.4 billion United States dollars (approximately R46 billion) - an empire built on the backs of the oppressed. This wealth is not only staggering but it is symbolically emblematic of the deep-rooted and systemic injustices that were perpetuated under the apartheid regime.

Media24's Dominance

As a subsidiary of Naspers, Media24 stands as one of the largest media conglomerates in South Africa. With a diverse portfolio of newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms, it holds significant influence over the country's media landscape, shaping public discourse and perception. Media24 holds the power to right the wrongs of the past but refuses to do so and instead continues spinning narratives that benefit the interests of those it holds near and dear, and that does not include the South African People.

Media24’s dominant position as part of the Naspers empire carries with it an enormous responsibility. The control it has over South Africa’s media landscape puts it in a unique position to control the media narrative in South Africa. With this power comes an obligation to ensure that the narratives it promotes are not just that of those who serve its interest or its close allies, but to represent the South African people truly and accurately in all their diversity. This role should not be taken lightly.

Media24 is not merely a spectator in our country’s media economy but an active participator, and a major one at that. Their responsibility must extend beyond generating profits to fostering a culture of inclusivity, objectivity, and fairness in reporting. This is a call for Media24 to begin playing its part in righting the wrongs of the past and to begin rectifying historical biases. Only then can they start contributing towards a more equitable future for all South Africans.

The Rise of Independent Media

In contrast to Naspers and Media24, Independent Media has emerged as a formidable player in the media industry, challenging the dominance of established media giants. Independent Media, under the chairmanship of Dr Iqbal Survé, has sought to provide alternate perspectives and highlight stories often neglected by mainstream media outlets.

Independent Media’s rise in the South African media landscape signified an important shift in the narratives being dictated across the country. Their focus on under-represented voices and commitment to equitable reporting brought a breath of fresh air into an industry dominated by single minded and biased interests. This paved the way for a new brand of journalism in South Africa that isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo and to give a voice to those who have for a long time, been marginalised and ignored.

Independent Media continuously endeavours to prove that media can be both an avenue for truth as well as a platform for change, creating a media landscape that will help shape a more vibrant, inclusive, and truthful media economy for all South Africans.

Naspers and Media24's Alleged Agenda

Critics argue that Naspers and Media24, being closely aligned with the current government regime, have actively sought to control the narrative by undermining Independent Media at any given opportunity. This alleged campaign against their competitors raise concerns about media plurality and the impartiality of reporting in a country which is facing increasingly concerning corruption, lies, economic crises, and most importantly, the lack of a defined outcomes-based plan for job creation and the alleviation of poverty.

  • Discrediting Independent Media: 
Naspers and Media24 have reportedly launched scathing attacks on Independent Media and Dr Iqbal Survé, its chairman. Employing apartheid-style tactics such as character assassination, distortion of facts, and undermining the credibility of Independent Media's journalism, they are making a concerted effort to erode public trust and weaken the company’s position in the industry.
  • Advertising Boycotts: 
In an attempt to further marginalise Independent Media, Naspers and Media24 have been accused of orchestrating advertising boycotts, pressuring businesses, and government entities to withdraw their support from Independent Media platforms. This strategic manoeuvre aims to cripple Independent Media financially and reduce its ability to compete in the media market.
  • Limited Coverage and Biased Reporting: 
Independent Media has raised concerns about Naspers and Media24’s biased reporting and limited coverage of political and international activities.
  • Influence over Government Policies: 
Given Naspers' close ties to the current government regime, concerns arise about its ability to influence media-related policies and regulations. Critics argue that Naspers and Media24 exploit this proximity to secure preferential treatment, while attempting to stifle competition and dissenting voices.

The Impact on Democracy

The implications of Naspers and Media24's alleged campaign against Independent Media extend far beyond the media industry. Media plurality, a cornerstone of democracy, is at stake, as independent voices are suppressed, and alternative perspectives struggle to be heard. In the age of information, we find ourselves in a monopolistic media environment which threatens to limit public discourse, compromise transparency, and undermine the democratic fabric of South Africa.

Naspers and Media24, with their troubled history and continued discourse now stand at a critical juncture. They now have a choice. They can either perpetuate their self-serving strategies or take a step towards righting the wrongs of the oppressed. As citizens of the new South Africa, it is our responsibility to demand the latter. It is time to call for transparency, demand accountability, and fight for the preservation of media plurality. The stakes are high, but the promise of a vibrant, inclusive, and truly democratic South Africa is well worth the battle.

“If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” 
- Malcolm X

It’s gloves off – no more elephant in the room.

*J Edwards requests anonymity in order to prevent his/her writing from interfering with his/her regular responsibilities.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL.