Mainstream media, your time to come clean is NOW!


As if cynical government intervention in the media were not bad enough, now we have the scandal involving payments made to a certain journalist at the Independent Group.

Does it surprise anybody that Ashley Smith may have been receiving brown paper envelopes stuffed with money from the office of the last Premier of the Western Cape?  Not really, since most media executives in South Africa are already in the pocket of one political party or two. When you have Maria Ramos on the board of the holding company of  the largest media conglomerate in Africa we should all be worried. The wife of Trevor Manual looks set to become the Imelda Marcos of South Africa — remember the scandal about a certain Philippino woman’s shoe collection?

But if the fraud saga involving Naspers is nothing to write home about, is Independent the clean company it purports to be? Remember Mac Maharaj, our disgraced ex-Minister of Transport? Whatever happened to him? Well if you read annual reports you might be a little shocked to find out he still heads a new consortium set up on the remains of Clear Channel Independent, that’s right, the division which almost got sold by INM heavyweight Denis O’Brien in a cost-cutting initiative that would have saved the company from the hands of international bankers and dirty finance.

So now we have two media companies in the country, both firmly in the grips of the World Bank. Wonderful. I can hear everybody congratulating everybody else while editors have their tasks cut out trying to write copy that doesn’t have the stench of the junk bond market about it. Did I forget to mention Maria Ramos connection to a certain bank which almost folded because of sovereign debt?

So let’s see, the Cape Times gets all upset about Ashley Smith and a couple of Rands, but one of their directors gets given money in a very large brown envelope from a German arm’s dealer nogal. The man is captured on camera with  Karlheinz Shrieber and nobody this side of the Atlantic bat’s an eyelid?

The Oliphant Commission found in May that Brian Mulroney, also a director at Independent,  had breached Canada’s federal ethics guidelines.

“Canadians are entitled to expect from those who govern, particularly the holders of high office, exemplary conduct in their professional and personal lives. Further, those who are making the transition from public life to private life must live up to the standards of conduct expected of them in order to preserve the integrity of government.”

Justice Oliphant said the former prime minister was guilty of inappropriate activity in at least two areas.

“I found that the business and financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney were inappropriate. I also found that Mr. Mulroney’s failure to disclose those business and financial dealings was inappropriate,”

Has anybody taken a corruption reading in the local press? Was Ashley Smith’s activities as a journalist appropriate, or is the issue rather one of governance? Should our government have journalists on its payroll? In fact should the press be our government? What happens when we start to blur the lines?

If you are worried about George Orwell’s predictions of a one world shadow government or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, then put this in your blackberry:

Naspers is about to lose its stake in Tencent Holdings despite posting a profit this year. Think it impossible? Think again.

Because of ongoing racism at the company, Naspers is about to have its stake in Tencent Holdings cut.  Asians do not enjoy racism and Chinese regulation is about to trim the Naspers holding, which contributes 40% of the companies earnings.

“China giveth and China taketh away” says Moneyweb. “When Naspers (JSE:NPN) entered the Chinese market in 2001, many outlined the infinite opportunities that await, however with the opportunities comes the threat of increased regulation.”

“Naspers shareholding in Hong Kong based Tencent might have to be reduced, this after sweeping new regulations to the online payment industry could force leading Chinese online companies to restructure their shareholdings. According to an FT report, Beijing said “it would place restrictions on payment providers with foreign investors”.”

Blink, and its gone. And that goes for the last remaining liberals at Independent.

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