This column first appeared on iol.co.za
Independent Media has read and acknowledges the statement by the PIC released on Friday 26 October, wherein it clarifies its position following a statement released by Tiso Blackstar.
In the statement the PIC categorically stated that they had “never at any time requested Tiso to assist it with regards to the management of INMSA, as alleged in the statement by Tiso”.
Independent Media has, since its acquisition by the Sekunjalo consortium, been the subject of vicious attacks by other media houses who opposed the transformation of the media in South Africa. In recent months these attacks have increased in a coordinated way and there have been personal attacks on Dr Iqbal Survé who is the executive chairman of Independent Media and chairman of the Sekunjalo Group.
In response to these attacks, Dr Survé recently penned an article “The hypocrisy and lies of Business Day ”. In this article Dr Survé stated, vis-à-vis, that “Tiso had surreptitiously approached the shareholders of Independent Media, including the PIC, on many occasions to try and consolidate the newspapers of the two businesses.”
Tiso countered this with a statement on 25 October in Business Day as well as on its online platforms, stating that it is was approached by the PIC to assist with the “management” of Independent Media. Tiso then refers to a meeting that took place at the Maslow Hotel in September 2016, requested by the PIC, to discuss this matter.
The facts are: The meeting was not requested by the PIC. This was confirmed by the PIC in their press statement. In fact, it had nothing to do with the PIC. An international digital media conference was held at the Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg in September 2016, which was attended by media representatives from both local and international media companies. It was at this conference that a Tiso representative invited Dr Survé to meet with Andrew Bonamour, the CEO of Tiso. The blatant omission of these details in Tiso’s statement created a completely different and misleading impression. This cannot remain unchallenged.
In our view, the PIC statement, unprecedented as far as we are aware, vindicates Dr Survé, and affirms his claim that Tiso Blackstar not only lied but will go to any lengths to acquire Independent Media’s titles.
We reiterate – Independent Media has consistently been the subject of a defamatory, manipulative and vicious campaign by Tiso Blackstar and others. This campaign is not only directed at Independent Media as a media organisation, but also the shareholders of Independent Media.
The Sekunjalo Group inherited the former Irish-owned company that had onerous long-term contracts in printing, distribution and other areas and had not invested in digital technology nor in the development and growth of the staff at Independent Media. Sekunjalo implemented a strategy to reposition Independent Media into a digital-first, print-best organisation and in so doing, into a larger ecosystem of technology media. This strategy and subsequent investments were implemented by Sekunjalo without any investment by the PIC or other shareholders.
And it is this, that has caused the ire of its competitors. Independent Media, the Sekunjalo Group and Dr Survé have subsequently been subjected to immense scrutiny and attack particularly by Tiso, in the hope that Tiso could acquire Independent Media’s titles and publications.
The PIC has called for a ceasefire. We agree that it does not help journalism when media houses engage in this way. However, justice must prevail. There is no room in our democracy for monopolistic conduct, corporate greed, lies and manipulation of the truth. It is regrettable that the media did not have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This would certainly have surfaced the shenanigans of anti-transformation forces in the media and the network of journalists of a particular generation.
Tiso’s actions are akin to that of a criminal enterprise and those responsible for this campaign must be brought to book.
Notwithstanding the call from the PIC, Independent Media reserves all of its rights not only against Tiso Blackstar, but all other print and digital publications that carried the defamatory statement from Tiso Blackstar on Thursday, 25 October 2018.