I have been reading with interest how Bell Pottinger used, not only their own platforms, but also those of other media houses in an attempt to change South Africa’s narrative.
In essence, Bell Pottinger was peddling fake news on behalf of the much alleged corrupt and money-grabbing Gupta family.
When the tide turned against Bell Pottinger and when they were unmasked as using fake news, they were rightly ridiculed and condemned as agents working against the majority of South Africans.
Bell Pottinger, contracted by the Gupta family, has been condemned for trying to influence the South African narrative around fighting embezzlement, fraud and state and corporate capture.
They manufactured news and promoted the notion of White Monopoly Capital, Black First Land First and others.
This fake news was swallowed and sent out so easily by our competitor, Naspers Media24 and their surrogate, BizNews.
But they also used fake news when the Sekunjalo-led consortium was purchasing Independent Media.
They used their considerable resources to malign Independent Media, me in my personal capacity and as executive chairman both of Sekunjalo and Independent Media.
Their fake news attacks became increasingly vicious and spurious after the sale of Independent Media was completed.
It became clear to me that Naspers Media24 and their surrogate speak with forked tongues when it comes to the creation of fake news. They attacked Bell Pottinger for peddling fake news yet they are guilty of the same.
Theirs is more insidious as they are using an apartheid-era style dirty-tricks campaign. Using their surrogate, their untruths were spread and shared until it appeared to be the truth.
Our detractors are the alter egos of Bell Pottinger. Just as Bell Pottinger did, so too have our competitors used fake news to purposefully sully Independent Media and myself.
We spent a long time defending ourselves against Naspers Media24 and their supposed news website, the London-based BizNews.
Terry Bell, who was a contracted columnist of Independent Media, now works for Fin24 and City Press.
We have an email written by Bell confirming he was contracted by Naspers Media24 to write negative stories about Independent Media and myself.
Even when we presented Bell with the truth he remained selective and twisted facts in his reporting when he decided to “fact-check” my CV.
Even of more interest is that Naspers Media24 and a number of news websites share and duplicate their stories.
Clearly, there are hidden agendas.
These writers are some of those who consistently use fake news about Independent Media and myself to discredit us.
They clearly have an axe to grind and the reasons are clear.
They feared a black-owned company. Their propaganda and their poorly embedded message was that we were “die swart gevaar”. But we are a media company that presents news accurately, without bias and gives everyone a fair voice.
Our newsrooms have become diverse, both in colour and gender. We have given people, overlooked for years, an opportunity to excel. It was clear that our competitors did not like what we were doing and so they intensified the attacks.
Many swallowed what was presented to them, without realising that what our competitors were publishing about us were fake news stories. It spread like a virus, republishing inflammatory articles among themselves so that it appeared to be true.
It has taken many years of investigation to clear our names and correct our reputation. For the false news campaign was destructive, much like that of Bell Pottinger’s Gupta campaign.
But Independent Media and I were not involved in nefarious operations.
It is of no interest to them that Sekunjalo and Independent Media were cleared by the public protector and other regulatory agencies. We defended ourselves when competitors presented us as a house of ill-repute, lacking integrity.
When we were vindicated their silence spoke volumes about their biased, harmful and defamatory reporting.
Readers have been led down the garden path by media houses intent on destroying that which becomes a threat to them and the fake reputations they have built.
BizNews and Naspers Media24 are the immoral alter egos of Bell Pottinger.
* Dr Iqbal Survé is Executive Chairman of Independent Media and the Sekunjalo Group.