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Paper won’t pander to owner

Published Dec 12, 2013

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The Cape Times will safeguard its independence and integrity at all costs, says new editor Gasant Abarder.

Cape Town -

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It is a privilege and an honour to be editing the newspaper where I cut my journalistic teeth as a young reporter under the editorships of Ryland Fisher and later John Scott.

Both were fiercely independent men with very different personalities. But what they had in common was their commitment to producing a newspaper that held journalistic integrity above all else.

Over the last few days, readers will have seen our coverage of this moment when we are all in deep mourning for the passing of the Father of our Nation, former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

The talented team at the Cape Times have poured their hearts into the coverage and we would like to hear your feedback as well as accounts about your own experiences and memories of Madiba.

As a newly appointed editor I have worked with the team of journalists at the Cape Times for just a few days. But I am moved by their professionalism and their sense that they don’t work for just any ordinary publication. They are a credit to my predecessor Alide Dasnois and her leadership.

My first appointment – Aneez Salie as deputy editor – is from within the ranks of this team. Salie is a man of great integrity, an independent thinker, a veteran of the Cape Times and above all, a great newspaper man.

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Together we look forward to ushering the Cape Times into an exciting era of digital and online publishing.

We have lagged behind our competitors for far too long in this space and I am happy to signal a significant move towards multi-platform journalism that will open up a new world of story-telling for our loyal readers.

But while we will embrace innovation, we will maintain those attributes that have made the Cape Times an institution; modern enough to withstand the pressures of the times we live in, but traditional enough to hold on to the values we hold dear.

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As I pick up the baton from all my predecessors, not without a great sense of duty and responsibility, I want to re-affirm the values that make the Cape Times the esteemed publication it is today:

This newspaper will safeguard its independence and integrity at all costs; it will not pander to the interests of its owner, political organisations, commercial entities or any other individuals or bodies seeking to sway this resolve.

It will abide by the constitution of the Republic of South Africa, be guided by the spirit of the Bill of Rights, and strive at all times to function within the confines of the South African Press Code – especially in the context of fairness, accuracy and balance, but giving special attention to limiting harm and having due respect for the rights and privacy of children.

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This newspaper will shine a light on injustice, give a voice to the powerless and hold those in positions of power – be they in the government or in business – to account.

The Cape Times will continue to serve the interests of readers, particularly in the middle class of Cape Town and business and will be a thought leader, a voice of reason and a sober commentator, providing a platform for a multitude of voices, opinion and debate.

Gerald Shaw illustrated the proud history and tradition of the Cape Times best in his book The Cape Times – An Informal History, when he wrote about an encounter between an angry Cecil John Rhodes and the recently appointed Cape Times editor Edmund Garrett in 1895.

The meeting took place in the wake of a critical editorial Garrett had written. In short, Garrett stared down Rhodes and stood his ground. In what is described by Shaw as “a pivotal moment in the history of the Cape Times”, the great empire-builder backed down.

I have every intention of continuing this proud tradition.

* Gasant Abarder is the editor of the Cape Times.

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