FROM "Operation Hlanza" to claims about Independent Media wanting to topple President Cyril Ramaphosa, News24 is weaponising fake news.
After a fake news article called "Inside "Operation Hlanza": Independent Media's plan to remove Ramaphosa" was debunked, News24 stepped up its propaganda against its rival, Independent Media.
The false headline on News24 was not an error, but rather a carefully calculated STRATCOM propaganda fake news ploy to portray Independent Media as a "referee" and "player" in ANC politics and its elective conference.
Responding to the News24 propaganda, Independent Media editor in chief pointed out that the "leaked" document was nothing but its internal coverage strategy drafted by the editors. In the alleged document, no section or paragraph suggests that Independent Media wants to "topple Ramaphosa". News24 lied!
Using STRATCOM propaganda tactics, News24 first claimed the document was "secret" to add to the intrigue and increase the information value of their article, making it look like they landed a scoop.
News24 was generous enough to share the extracts from the said document. But none of the parts that were cited mention the calls by Independent Media at the ANC elective conference to get rid of Ramaphosa.
Instead, in the general background, Independent Media’s editor was simply stating the observation about the state of the country and affairs. Available information and views that are long covered in the public domain.
News24 was engaging in nothing but yellow journalism, propaganda, and fake news.
Aside from the fake, shocking headline, News24 doesn't give any facts about where the Independent Media said it wanted to get rid of Ramaphosa.
A day later, after Indy’s editor-in-chief, Aziz Hartley’s refutation of their propaganda fake news, News24 doubled down, saying Independent Media called Ramaphosa a "tsotsi from Chiawelo".
News24 used the old propaganda trick of quoting "faceless, nameless sources" to back up their lie.
The current situation is reminiscent of events that occurred decades ago, when News24 parent company, Naspers, was weaponised to generate propaganda and fake news against anyone who was the target of the apartheid regime.
It is no-holds-barred information warfare against Independent Media and its owner, Dr Iqbal Survé.
Coordinating with the Daily Maverick, Amabhungane, and other white mainstream media players and blue-check journalists, News24 has produced a sewerage dump worth of propaganda and fake news to castigate and taint Independent Media’s clean image.
But the years of relentless attacks and propaganda have failed to destroy Independent Media and its standing in society. News24 simply tweaked and refined its tactics with the latest propaganda article. And it needed some "legitimacy".
To legitimise propaganda, you always need a "useful idiot". This is where the Wits Journalism "Professor" Anton Harber comes in.
News24 went on to source comments about their "Operation Hlanza" fake news from Anton Harber, a known biased critic of Independent Media with a vitriolic hatred for Survé. Professor Glenda Daniels, head of media studies at Wits University, was also in tow.
The irony of commenting about "ethical journalism" on a fake news article did not escape the two "professors".
If there was any strand of fibre of "ethics" in the veins of Harber and Daniels, they would have refused to legitimise the fake news by News24. Or at the least, they should have been critical of News24, especially its sensational fake news headline. But the target is Independent Media and Survé.
News24 is conducting information warfare against Survé and Independent Media. Fake news and sensational headlines are very effective tools. The same "principles" that they profess to uphold do not apply.
What is more revealing in the News24 propaganda is the repetition of the narrative about "rogues", and "rogue journalism". The repetition of the terminology is a clear indicator of underlying campaign messaging.
In his June 2021 article, Adriaan Basson called Survé, a "media rogue". The article was titled "Hlaudi, Iqbal and Johnny: Inside the horror show of SA’s media rogues".
The narrative and fake news articles by News24 serve a number of purposes:
- Present Independent Media as a media house that is going to be biased in its coverage of the ANC conference. Only News24 and the white-owned STRATCOM media must be seen as "impartial";
- Undermine the journalists and journalistic morale of Independent Media staff by referring to them as "rogues";
- Insinuations about Ramaphosa being a "targeted" victim who is to be removed by a media house that is not even a delegate at the ANC elective conference;
- Settling scores with Independent Media, and continued information and propaganda warfare against Independent Media and its owner, Survé.
In the age of disinformation, anything goes. But this time, News24 took it too far. News24’s propaganda machinery is playing dirtier than ever in its information war against Independent Media.
The South African public must see through them and make sure they fail. It was News24's parent company that preserved apartheid propaganda and apartheid government for almost 42 years!
- Sizwe Dlamini is acting editor of Sunday Independent