Survé and Indy editors lambast SANEF arrogance
Cape Town - Independent Media editors and Sekunjalo have taken a hard line and hit back at the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), saying the NGO’s arrogance relating to Independent Media, cannot go unchallenged.
In strongly worded letters, Independent Media’s editors and executive chairman of Sekunjalo and Independent Media Dr Iqbal Survé responded to an unprecedented move by SANEF, who through its chairperson Sibusiso Ngalwa wrote to the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) asking for its intervention in the running of the country’s largest print group.
In the letter, Ngalwa said they wanted to raise “with you (PIC) deep concerns we have about recent developments at the Independent Media Group, of which you are a major shareholder and creditor”.
“SANEF is of the view that the PIC should not countenance the subversion of fundamental democratic principles, such as freedom and independence of the media, under its watch. On the contrary, the PIC should use its position as a shareholder to advance constitutional principles.
“As SANEF, we request you to consider introducing mechanisms that will safeguard bona fide journalists and journalism in the group. We do not wish to prescribe to the PIC, but these are some of the suggestions the SANEF council came up with:
• Requiring a return to the Press Council of all Independent Media titles with immediate effect. This will restore a measure of trust by the public in the journalism produced by the group.
• Instigate a forensic investigation into the payments by the SSA to the group, through ANA and other titles, to establish the correct facts about what transpired and take the necessary remedial actions based on the outcome of the investigation.
• Ringfence the newsrooms of the Independent Media titles by introducing a ’Chinese wall’ between the management of Dr Survé and the editors of the titles. This could be in the shape of an independent editorial board, assisted by a public editor that does not report to Sekunjalo management,” said Ngalwa
Editors in the Independent Media group slammed SANEF saying the organisation did not speak on their behalf.
“We, the editors of Independent Media, have not requested any intervention on our behalf. More importantly, no intercession is required - whatsoever.
“We therefore find your self-deputising and self-representation of what you imagine to be our needs and requirements and those of our journalists and the company itself, to be preposterous and arrogant in the extreme.
“For the record, yet again, we are free to write what we wish, as stipulated in our contracts of employment. We reinforce, yet again, that there is no editorial interference from our Executive Chairman, nor is there any bad blood between the executive and ourselves.
"We do not live, in fear of retribution if we speak our own minds, as intimated in your ill-conceived letter. We are, as a body, affronted by your assumption that we are hapless and helpless. In claiming such and in penning your communication in an attempt to pit an assumed shareholder against another, under the pretext of concern for us and not interference, you show total disregard for all of us here at Independent Media and the ramifications to our livelihoods, and reinforce your actual intent to indeed ’interfere’.
"It is quite unheard of for any grouping, such as SANEF, to think that they have the right to intrude in another organisation and be so blatantly dismissive of its existing leadership," said the group's editors.
Survé called on SANEF to come clean and inform the nation of the real reasons for its ongoing attempts at intimidation, interference, bullying and reckless conduct towards Independent Media.
“It is absurd that SANEF feels it has the right to interfere with the ownership structure of Independent Media, going so far as to engage directly with a state institution to insist that Independent Media should join an external voluntary body. Independent Media has at numerous times categorically stated that, in line with international best practices, it has established its own Press Ombudsman processes and invited former editors, respected journalists and high-ranking members of civil society to be a part of it, as well as on the appeals panel.
“If you had bothered to contact the Editor-in-Chief, Aneez Salie or the Press Ombudsman, Yogas Nair, or indeed anyone from my office, we would have been able to provide you with all of this necessary information.”
He said SANEF’s “forked tongue” approach in attempting to lobby the PIC to safeguard 1500 jobs at Independent Media while actively engaging in open sabotage, was a declaration of its true intent to do harm.
READ THE FULL LETTERS BELOW: