Letter: Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ refers

Dear Ed,

Seth Rogen: ‘I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel’ refers

As an anti-war activist opposed to the abuse of the term ‘apartheid’ in the Middle East, I wish to respond to the latest binary correspondence on Israel and Palestine carried by The Guardian. In particular I wish to point out the tendency by either parties to the conflict to view the other in Manichean terms.

The resulting dualistic cosmology describing ‘a struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness’, has plagued the religious conflict over the final status of Jerusalem, for decades and is not helpful in arriving at a secular solution.

Like the actor Rogen, I too once believed that everything I had been told by my Jewish father was wrong. During the 80s I found the Rabbinical references to the biblical stories told of King David and the construction of the Temple inconsistent with the 1982 invasion of South Lebanon by the IDF under the government of Menachem Begin.

During my years as a student activist and member of the South African Union of Jewish Students, I drew parallels between the SADF invasion of Angola, and became an outspoken critic of Israel military aid to apartheid South Africa.

I was fed Fatah propaganda related to the Nakba and ended up believing that colonialist adventurism by European settlers was the cause of the problem, while Palestinians were the innocent victims. I even publically renounced my right to return as an Orthodox Jew after the construction of the separation barrier in 2000.

Several beatings by Jordanian-Palestinian immigrants and self-styled Palestinian activists set the stage for an end to my delusion. Nevertheless I still persisted in my Anti-Zionist views, attended various rallies, met with a group of Palestinian doctors and even appeared at a UCT seminar hosted by members of Fatah. There I was told the problems were the ‘Jews, Jews, Jews.’

The narrative provided by the PLO began to unravel shortly after I became the subject of a religious inquisition by a corrupt ANC official in 2009/2010, some of the details of which are available in my self-published Amazon book, ‘Life in a Time of Heretics’.

The final parting of company with the Palestinian version of reality coincided with my rediscovery of the missing narrative of Mizrahi Jews, the stories of dispossession and disenfranchisement suffered by oriental and North African Jews.

In particular my late father’s inability to talk about the Farhud Massacre, ‘the violent dispossession” carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1–2, 1941, and followed by the expulsion and dispossession of property of Arab Jews following the events of 1948, put paid to the notion that this was a singular conflict between good and bad. Between 1920 and 1970, some 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries.

Rogen’s revelations reported by Oliver Holmes in the Guardian, that “more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation” is thus a one-sided tally given the magnitude of these expulsions and the enormity of the Holocaust.

The inescapable facts surrounding the complicity of Amin el Husseini, then Mufti of Jerusalem, and the resulting controversy also need to be weighed, as too the facts surrounding ‘Dhimmitude’, a permanent state of subjugation by either of the parties.

A 2015 Time magazine article addressing the question of whether or not Husseini was the source of the Final Solution certainly demonstrates the problem of focusing exclusively on the Nakba whilst denying the Holocaust. Not that one should make the cardinal error of assuming that all non-Jewish Palestinians are to blame, or thereby privilege one life more than the other.

To put this matter to rest, although Husseini attended the infamous Wansee Conference where Hitler’s Final Solution was formerly adopted, the decision to ‘exterminate all the Jews, and not simply the Zionist ones’ had already been taken, and thus, the ‘invitations had already been sent out’ when the Mufti arrived to argue his case against Jewish immigration to the Holy Land.

The real nail in the coffin of apartheid analogy however, is when one realises that Husseini’s position in history is much the same as the father of apartheid, DF Malan who introduced the racist Aliens Act in January 1937, restricting Jewish immigration to South Africa before the war. Both men are responsible for condemning hundreds of thousands of admittedly, European Jews, to euthanasia camps in Poland.

Two wrongs do not make a right. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Banning points of view, with which one disagrees, and as Rogen and Holmes motivate by implication, is never a solution. Rather it is my considered opinion that the conflict in the Middle East represents a tragic case of injustice vs injustice, or as the writer Amos Oz has put it, a sad case of competing juridical systems.

Like Peter Beinart in the New York Times, I too no longer believe in the Middle East, but can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state.

Whether the result is a binational or plurinational solution is anyone’s guess.

Kind regards

David Robert Lewis

MOGOENG MOGOENG: STATEMENT BY TWO WAR RESISTERS

AS ANTI-APARTHEID activists, war resisters and peace-builders, with a long history of opposition to the unbridled use of force to achieve political goals, we understand the many predicaments faced by those wanting to build peace in the Middle East, and act in solidarity with those who refuse military service to the Israeli state.

The controversial statements by our nation’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng have thrown into stark contrast the divergences of opinion on the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It is not our objective here to issue dogma nor to take sides on whether or not sitting judges may issue forth with their private or personal views on the subject, nor even to take issue on whether or not Mogoeng Mogoeng was speaking in his capacity as the chief justice or as a private citizen.

Rather and more pertinently, we wish to state that the religious justifications for support of the Israeli state by some within the Christian faith, and a judge holding high office, raise crucial and important questions about the overall neutrality of our justice system, especially the right to dissent from religion when it comes to the issue of secularism.

According to George Holyoake, the man who coined the term, ‘secularism’, and who was imprisoned for his belief that all laws should be subject to rational debate, “Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable.” (1)

Holyoake went on to say:- “”A Secularist guides himself by maxims of Positivism, seeking to discern what is in Nature — what ought to be in morals … Positive principles are principles which are provable.”

Secularism is not the absence of religion, but rather the absence of religious rule.

For instance, Moses Mendelssohn, (one of the key figures of the Jewish Enlightenment ‘Haskalah’) outlined the central thesis of separation of secular and ecclesiastical authority, in his 1783 book ‘Jerusalem oder ĂŒber religiöse Macht und Judentum‘, stating ‘the state declares laws, religion offers precepts.’

The principle of separation of state and religion is thus the basis for the Progressive movement within Judaism in South Africa, whose adherents are predominantly secular.

In a critical review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State (3) Professor Nader Hashemi writes, “given the European roots of secularism … the challenge for Muslim democrats is to develop coherent and indigenous arguments in favour of religion–state separation as part of a broader strategy for advancing democracy.”

It is important to note that our own democratic South African Constitution begins with the words:- ” We, the people of South Africa,” and not “In Humble Submission to Almighty God”.

We therefore wish to remind the Chief Justice of the controversy surrounding secularism during the adoption of the preamble and the elegant solution achieved by our country in creating a separation of powers and neutrality in religious outlook.

This was achieved by dropping: “In humble submission to Almighty God”, and appending Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

We further wish to commend Zane Dangor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for opening a necessary and crucial space for dissent on the subject of religion, by issuing a statement reiterating South Africa’s ethical leadership and moral stance on Palestine. One guided by International Law at the same time that it seeks to uphold the Chief Justice and his rights as a citizen, by stating “he has a right to differ with the foreign policy position of South Africa”

The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been waging and ongoing for over 70 years — the prospect of peace has continued to elude our generation. In seeking to find a solution, now is the time to open critical debate (4) by defending the rights of those with differing views within our own country, to speak. 

Talking out the many issues faced in the conflict, ‘Lusaka-style dialogue’, is the only way to solve problems without resorting to more violence and kragdadigheid.

SIGNED ON THIS DAY:

David Robert Lewis

Michael Graaf

IN Cape Town

NOTES

(1) Principles of Secularism, George Holyoake; Austin. & Co., 1871.

(2) Mendelssohn, Moses (1783), Jerusalem: oder ĂŒber religiöse Macht und Judentum. Von Moses Mendelssohn. MitallergnĂ€digsten Freyheiten, Berlin: Friedrich Maurer

(3) Political Islam Versus Secularism — A review of Tarek Fatah’s Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State. Nader Hashemi, 2008

(4) Read Rabbi Warren Goldstein’s response to Judge Cameron here.

BRIEF BIO

David Robert Lewis has written and worked for several titles banned under the apartheid regime, including South Press, Grassroots, and New Nation. In 1987 Lewis refused to stand on a combined IDF-ECC platform alongside Cameron Dugmore and then SAUJS president Johnathan Handler. Handler had objected to SADF troops in the townships but asserted his unconditional support of the IDF. The ECC was later banned in 1988 along with its members, as was the Swapo Solidarity Committee, of which Lewis was a member.


Michael Graaf was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended on condition that he completes 2400 hours of unpaid community service at King Edward VII Hospital, at the rate of 72 hours per month. In October 1990 Graaf was found guilty at the Pietermaritzburg magistrate’s courts of refusing to serve in the SADF. Mike was objecting to a camp call-up for the 15 December 1989. The sentence was set aside in June 1991 and he was able to stop his long hours of portering at a Durban hospital.

Gatesgate: Naspers/News24 sudden flipflop on vaccine testing claims

READERS may be aware of false claims made by Naspers media group, News24 stating incorrectly that philanthropist Bill Gates would be testing a vaccine against Covid-19 on Africans. The story turned out to be fake news gleaned from twitter and has resulted in a series of embarrassing retractions and apologies by the media group.

A column by ‘public editor’ George Claasen stands alongside news editor Adriaan Basson’s open acknowledgement: “There is a massive difference between testing kits to help the government determine how many citizens are Covid-19 positive, and testing new vaccines on Africans. This should have been picked up and corrected in the editing process.”

“We messed up and for that we apologised to you, our readers, and to the Gates Foundation” says Basson.

Claasen’s narrative on the other hand, is exceedingly bizarre considering his own admission: “When I was a young cub reporter, ethical accountability by the media was a rare phenomenon. Press codes mostly did not exist and a watchdog such as the Organisation of Newsombudsmen and Standards Editors (ONO), the international body today guarding over journalism standards, did not exist and was only established in the 1980s”.

One should note here that any comparison with the activities of other media houses during the struggle period referred to by Claasen would quickly assess that neither Grassroots nor South Press for that matter, had similar lapses of judgement. Whether the same can be said of the Weekly Mail and its treatment of Winnie Mandela is another story.

Although other media players acted recklessly under various media restrictions and were perhaps, victims of embedded journalism, the old Argus Group showed more backbone than Naspers did in allowing open criticism of the regime. Criticism notably missing from papers such as Die Burger during the same period.

Both Basson and Claasen should therefore be reminded that they speak on behalf of a discredited news organisation that continues to lie about its role during apartheid, was found guilty of gross violations of human rights by the commission of inquiry into apartheid, and today stands accused of waging a campaign against the TRC and also of going so far as to corruptly influence a 2010 decision by our labour legal system, in order to avoid culpability.

The retraction this week follows the passing of Conrad Sidego, ‘the only person to have experienced discrimination’ at Naspers during apartheid, according to the company, a company which itself is a marvel of reinvention.

This follows several well-publicised scandals involving former senior Media24 journalists accused of sexually abusing boys while they held senior positions at the company,

The public retractions by News24 editors, welcome are they may be in some quarters, are thus one of the rare moments when the Naspers corporation has found pause to consider the deleterious effects of its lack of journalistic integrity.

Surely time to demand why no retraction of the many previous ‘errors of fact’ introduced by the apartheid lie factory?

Why no public acknowledgements of complicity in the dirty tricks operation waged against anti-apartheid newsrooms and following similar revelations made by Paul Erasmus during the Timol and Aggett inquests?

Could it be that in all these cases, none of the victims turned out to be billionaires?

Why bother with law when you can simply capture the justice system?

IN 2009 the ANC under Jacob Zuma, exercised its influence to place then director of the Resolve Group, Michael Halton Cheadle on the bench, at the behest of a cartel active in South Africa’s media.

Cheadle, who was at the time, in partnership with then speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu and media group, Kagiso, proceeded to preside over a matter involving the media, a complaint of unfair discrimination effecting his own client and business partners. The erstwhile professor of law at UCT, admits as much in a 2011 report to Cape Law Society but denies any culpability. The admission that the respondent in the labour matter, Media24 was Cheadle’s client drew absolutely no censure from the law society governing the legal profession, after a complaint was referred to the body by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The JSC paradoxically claims it lacks jurisdiction to hear complaints effecting acting judges.

In the report, Cheadle denies having any direct business relationship involving the media and justified his directorship and shareholding in Resolve on the basis of a decision handed down in Bernert v Absa Bank. In that matter a judge’s over-the-counter shareholding came under scrutiny and was found to be de minimus and not sufficient to effect the outcome.

Cheadle’s directorship and shareholding in a labour brokerage and financial services firm owned by the media was clearly not de minimus and amounts to corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. To put this another way, why pay an attorney when you can buy the judge? Several partners at Resolve had ties to Media24 and/or Cheadle Thompson Haysom (CTH) and/or the ANC, including Peter Harris, Nicola Galombik, and Murphy Morobe.

Galombik at the time was the executive director of Yellowoods, then majority owned by TBWA Hunt Lascaris who listed Media24 as a client. (“TBWA Media24 showcase”)

Far from being insignificant, Cheadle’s shareholding flouted the ‘nemo rule’ (nemo judex in causa sua), one of the bedrocks of our justice system. For those who cannot read Latin, the phrase translates: ‘no one should be judge in his or her own case’, it is a widely known principle of natural justice.

How did we get here?

Kagiso Trust Holdings (KTH) was founded in 1985 during a ‘period of intense struggle in South Africa’. The company’s website states: “During this tumultuous time, we strongly opposed apartheid by providing support to development institutions and initiatives across a range of sectors.”

Whilst South Africans were being entertained by what many referred to as the ‘Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa show‘, another relationship had blossomed at CODESA, that between the Sisulus and the Ruperts. The result was the creation of an entity known as New Africa Investments Limited (NAIL) and holding company Phaphama Holdings, setting the scene for the Sisulus to get into bed with Remgro, the former Rembrandt Group, and thus the company which had financed apartheid (see below).

It appears NAIL was one of the first empowerment vehicles, ‘which had emerged from Nasrec’. (1) An ’empawamenti’ sweetheart deal calved from Sanlam’s stake in Metropolitan. (2)  It was thus the first black-owned business to be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. NAIL chairman, the late Zwelakhe Sisulu would find himself actively involved in New African Media as his Urban Brew later became an asset owned by Kagiso, and Nail and Kagiso merged despite objections being raised before the Competition Commission. (3)

It is not the purpose of this piece to examine the multifarious ANC deployments to the ‘commanding heights of the economy’, during this period, and the rapid recapitalisation of the economy during an initial boom period, other than to emphasise the party’s central relationships which emerged to form the Resolve Group, and thus the relationship between Resolve and a group of Afrikaners who are invested in South Africa’s media.

In 2003 Kagiso expanded its media holdings and took up a 30% stake in Resolve, a substantial holding in a company which would later turn out to be extremely useful in keeping labour and dissident voices in check. The Resolve Group aimed to provide a ‘total solution in workforce management‘ and included inter alia Resolve Workplace Solutions, Resolve Encounter Consulting, Tokiso Dispute Management, Converse Consulting, Mediaworks, Resolve Career Transition, CCI Growthcon and Resolution Logic, all involved in the employment, placement and management of workers and professionals.

As a result of the intertwined business relationships developed at NAIL, in 2005 Remgro took up a 37% stake in Kagiso, with the result that Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd, the holding company of Remgro, now had an effective stake in the former struggle press. The project which began at CODESA had come full circle. Readers may remember that CODESA 2 was instrumental in the restructuring of the SABC which would result in the late Zwelakhe Sisulu also taking the helm of the public corporation (1994 to 1997) and setting the scene for a controversy before the Zondo Commission involving Naspers’ Multichoice.

Max Sisulu was thus a director at Resolve, a labour and financial services firm during 2010, whilst his brother was at NAIL/Kagiso. Max is a prominent member of the ANC. At the time of the corrupt activities involving Resolve, he was then speaker of the House of Assembly, where he divided his time between chairing the 6th House, and his duties at Resolve.

In 2004 ANC members Max Sisulu and Murphy Morobe had been approached by Peter Harris to take up shares in the Resolve Group, Harris had practised law for 15 years at Cheadle, Thompson & Haysom and in the early 1990s was ‘seconded to the National Peace Accord, after which he headed the Monitoring Directorate of the Independent Electoral Commission for the 1994 election.’ Morobe significantly had been the ‘administration head’ at CODESA, and his relationship with the Sisulus stretched back to the days of Khotso House and the UDF.

Harris was thus instrumental in turning Resolve into a party political clearinghouse, that provided entry to the justice system and those seeking to influence the outcome of events.

Just about nobody batted an eyelid when Remgro (the former Rembrandt Group) and one of the chief financiers of the apartheid regime, acquired a stake in Kagiso. And no journalist bothered raising an eyebrow when warning lights would signal that the result would turn into a highly interconnected, networked media empire, in which both Remgro and Kagiso provided content to Multichoice, at the same time they were effectively invested in Naspers, and with the Ruperts holding the purse strings over an empire which comprised, banking, insurance, media and fibre optic cable.

The strategy which had played itself out at Nasrec and CODESA was clear — draw the ANC top brass into the Afrikaner Laager, gain strength and economic position in the ensuing rivalry between various arms of the new emerging black empowerment class, and use this advantage to stall any attempt to gain traction on apartheid litigation. Litigation which might have involved the Tobacco industry, an industry which at the behest of the Ruperts, had bailed out apartheid-era banks when sanctions had brought the country to its knees.

As I write this, there is a call by Khulumani an organisation representing apartheid survivors, to establish a tribunal in the aftermath of the TRC, to make good on the transitional justice framework which granted amnesty to those who came clean, but demanded that justice be served against those who did not.

Oscar van Heerden writes: “if the commissioners were not convinced of the truth or if the evidence did not tally with your version of the truth, then amnesty could be withheld. However, if you elected not to come forward and hide the truth because you might be under the mistaken impression that secrets would remain secret, if the truth was found, and you were implicated, you would be prosecuted and perhaps even imprisoned. Those were the rules.”

Then there are those individuals such as Johann Rupert whose testimony before the commission is a marvel of invention, a narrative in which he fails to explain what his family was doing at the very heart of the racist system.

Rupert continues to claim today that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of collaboration with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. Open secret’s Hennie van Vuuren for instance, has already demonstrated extensive links between the Naspers corporation and the National Party.

The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Rupert’s business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horwood and titular head of the country, Nico Diederichs.

The Rupert’s though critical of the apartheid policy of separate development, had instead advocated a form of “Volkstaat” in the form of a Swiss Canton System, which would have kept large swathes of the country under white rule. The logical extension some might say to the policy of apartheid bantustans, and which would, in the Rupert’s view, have been maintained in comparison to the federalist position, a position which resulted in the system we have today.

Since the winding up of the TRC, there have been several inquests, notably the Timol Inquest and Aggett Inquest in which apartheid agent Paul Erasmus has given damming testimony of the dirty tricks campaign waged against activists and the anti-apartheid press under the aegis of a state funded by the Ruperts.

Surely time for the Zondo Commission to expand its terms of reference to include the many sweetheart deals involving ANC party officials and the media, the least of which is the role played by PW Botha in his award of South Africa’s only pay-television licence to Multichoice, and the corruption which has kept apartheid litigation out of court, despite the TRC process. It should be remembered that those who received amnesty did not receive amnesty against future crimes.

NOTES

(1) Objections lodged before the Competition Commission by Johannic to a merger between Kagiso and NAIL were overruled in 2003, since ‘Tiso consortium had effectively bought up to 81.9 % of the “N” shares in Nail and 31.8 % of the ordinary shares’.

(2) https://hsf.org.za/publications/focus/issue-27-third-quarter-2002/the-tale-of-nail

‘New Africa Investments Ltd was founded in the early Nineties by Dr Nthato Motlana, with 16 per cent of Metropolitan Life, unloaded by an altruistic Sankorp in the cause of ’empawamenti’. The hammer behind Nail was token mlungu Jonty Sandler, who had earlier cost his bankers a bundle at Nasrec’

(3) Some 11+ subsequent mergers by Kagiso were given the green light by CompCom.

(4) https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/apr/22/chrismcgreal

‘Criticism has focused on the four directors – three black, one white – of New African Investments Limited (Nail). They planned to ask shareholders to grant them share options worth ÂŁ13m, which would have put about ÂŁ2m in the pockets of each.’

(5) https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2014-04-27-bee-deals-a-skimmers-dream-come-true/

‘The first empowerment deal done in South Africa was Sanlam’s sale of a stake in Metropolitan to a little-known entity called New Africa Investments (Nail). In 1993, more than 10 years before the first BEE legislation was introduced, Sanlam rushed the sale through when it heard that Anglo American was about to do a similar transaction with its insurance operation, African Life.’

Sorry, but the facts don’t support Iqbal SurvĂ©’s latest opinion piece

IN AN editorial published on IOL today, Iqbal SurvĂ© CEO of the Independent Media Group, a group with 9 daily newspapers, 10 Weekend Newspapers and 2 financial papers, doesn’t seem to get that the role of newspapers is to reflect back the diversity of opinion in the country.

Instead he seeks to cast his hopelessly conservative brand based upon prohibition rather than permission, as a ‘progressive’ voice ‘pitted against “a morass of anti-progressive Fourth Estate propaganda machines operating in this country, apparently bent on preventing true freedom of speech.”

In order to substantiate his argument, he then goes on to attack the online Daily Maverick without any evidence, for apparently being funded “by the Oppenheimers and other well-placed businessmen and families” and the Mail and Guardian, a niche weekly, for being ‘funded primarily by overseas backers who themselves have certain political interests’.

Significantly, he avoids the implications of a massive cartel within the daily news (print, television and radio) whose ultimate control is assuredly, a company known as Rupert Bellegings Pty Ltd.

SurvĂ© further fails to note that INM is itself, funded by our own government investment arm, the PIC and also organs of the Chinese government. He fails to explain what steps he has taken to defend ‘freedom of speech” in particular on issues related, to Tibet, Taiwan, Myanmar, and the Uyghurs, a Moslem minority in China. And closer to home, on issues related to divergences of culture, religion, politics and opinion.

An example would be the LGBT community, which following the takeover of INM by Survé, appears to have been rendered invisible.

Or the Jewish community, a sizeable minority, which is no longer granted the same status as other, more favoured groups.

In 2007 the ANC banned the Dalai Lama.

I therefore challenge SurvĂ© to demonstrate how his newspapers are in any way independent and ‘progressive’, other than their slavish subservience to the prescient political party of the day.

A news media which censors on the basis of ones purported political and cultural affiliations, whether proven or not, is not a progressive media. Rather, such organs are more in keeping with the Soviet era and its Pravda news agency.

SEE: Closure of the Mind, Independent Media’s suppression of open debate and a free press

Copyright Amendment Act ‘discussion’

SOUTH AFRICA’s Copyright Act is stuck in the 1970s paradigm of ‘fair-dealing’, in this interview on Capetalk, it may appear that the main innovation here is fair-use. This discussion avoids the troubling issue of the failure of legislators to include permissive licensing schemes, which currently fail by default under the Amended legislation.

In terms of the amendment, there is no way to opt-out of the default copyright regime, and creators will not be able to ‘sign-away’ or gift their copyright in favour of permissive licensing, for example under the creative commons.

This is a significant failing in the new act and the last time I looked, the legislation erred in favour of large collection agencies and publishing houses such as Independent Group who feel entitled to publish without payment.

In effect we still in the old days of agencies collecting on behalf of creators who never receive a penny.

The debate also touches on the successful campaign to include resale royalties waged by persons such as myself.

Readers may be aware of a dispute in the visual arts world in this regard going back to the 90s and the resulting backlash by monied art-dealers.

Medialternatives has written about this issue here and here.

We’ll let you enjoy the audio

Refilwe speaks to Tusi Fokane Coordinator of ReCreate

 

For our nation’s press barons, this means war

THE PAST weeks have seen a tit-for-tat ‘media war’ between local publishers INM and Tiso-Blackstar.  Online periodicals and journos are all weighing in. What started out as a sequel to the recent Sunday Times debacle — an opinion piece published by Independent Media, written by one Iqbal SurvĂ© — has snowballed into quite a large ball of, well muck.

It all started when The Sunday Times, a weekend paper owned by Tiso Blackstar,  was cast ‘under the spotlight’ after its editor, Bongani Siqoko, ‘apologised for a violation of the press code and alleged manipulation of several news stories’ including the so-called SARS ‘rogue unit’.

All good and fine, but then press baron Survé resorted to a hatchet job which really ruffled feathers. Instead of tackling the Sunday Times,  Survé chose to smear by extension a reputable sister daily, Business Day. Apparently the Budlender report leads credence to the assertions.

SurvĂ© claims, “Sekunjalo are victims of Business Day and its shenanigans and defamatory campaign. There are desperate attempts to characterise the Sekunjalo Group in a negative way using the same Goebbels strategy.”

Which is a bit rich, considering the Cape Times’ own Goebbels strategy. The resulting verbiage escalating into a veritable diatribe against the Tiso Blackstar group in general.

All a case of sour grapes?

SurvĂ©’s “The hypocrisy and lies of Business Day”  was perhaps aimed at settling scores from an ealier bout of criticism. One which began with the Independent Group’s self-inflicted Desnois controversy, (a media story about the media), shortly after SurvĂ© himself, bought the entire group, with a bit of help from the PIC, (a government pension fund).

Thus we witnessed The Times responding with a spin story all of their own, claiming “PIC voiced ‘concern’ about running of Independent Media” 

This elicited a strange denial from PIC, which was also moved to reveal its shareholding in South Africa’s press, providing information which parliamentarians in the opposition have been trying to get hold of for decades. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that PIC lists:

1. Independent News and Media South Africa – 25%

2. Tiso Blackstar – 10.999%

3. Naspers 16.585%

4. Caxton – 0.955%

5. Primedia – The PIC is exposed to Primedia through an Private Equity Fund

That is a hell of a lot of press share equity for one pension fund, in effect the government own some serious media clout.

And so Independent Media responds to PIC

Or were PIC responding to PIC?

The response contains a a real clanger since the writer obviously hasn’t read Chapter 4 of the TRC Report special commission on the media, and is unaware of our own litigation subsequent to the publication of the report.

So this statement is just plain wrong and idiotic. “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.”

Not to be outdone,  former 24.com editor, Chris Roper weighed in that “Dr SurvĂ© is making our democracy sick”. Resulting in an Op-Ed piece by Ayanda Mdlulu, published by the PIC, sorry INM, labeling Roper a racist. Racism at the centre of Roper’s attack on Independent Media

Roper’s ad hominem attack against Survé  though badly conceived (surely 24.com is making democracy sick?), was certainly camp, “think of Iqbal SurvĂ©, that apparent love-child of a strutting peacock and a cheap piñata. ..Dr Iqbal SurvĂ© has already done massive damage to the status of a free press in South Africa. Nobody takes his (and I use the word “his” advisedly) newspapers seriously,” opined Roper.

NM veteran Dougie Oakes’ was however more balsy and to the point.

Time to go, Iqbal paints a picture of an ailing news organisation. “I’ve never come across a newspaper where a persona non grata list of letter writers forms part of its editorial policy,” writes Oakes. Chilling but not hard to imagine, given the machinations of the former Argus Group.

Meanwhile, Hans Pienaar revealed that Vrye Weekblad was all just a right-wing front, which allowed the Nationalists to negotiate a better deal with the ANC.

READ: Chris Roper’s bizarre denial, ‘there is no media war’

 

DRL responds to Douglas Scott, Wikimania

Dear Douglas,

COMPLAINT WIKIMANIA CAPE TOWN

While I appreciate the trouble you have taken to respond to me, in particular your acknowledgement of my contributions to the community over the past years, your unsupported assertions are both unwarranted and unsubstantiated. I therefore respond to your email received on 10 August 2018, in point form.

1. The first I became aware of the aforementioned ‘Decolonising the Internet’ co-located Event (“”Event”) was when I viewed the conference programme several days before the main conference on 17 July 2018. It is clear from the main programme that the keynote delivered by Dr Jacbs was not merely co-located but also linked to the pre-conference topic.

2. While the attached WhoseKnowledge website page has a blue box at the bottom of the page, showing that the event was “an invite-only conference”, this was after some 1000 words, describing ‘the first ever conference about centering marginalized knowledge online” claiming “to build more awareness, allies, and joint action plans” while convening “marginalized community organizers, technologists, scholars, artists, and Wikimedians” and also apparently creating “newly created alliances and networks, [working] together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance” and further proclaiming: “We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”

3. It thus seems a bit odd that this statement should be followed by an exclusivity arrangement whereby the event was held in Cape Town, with absolutely no attempt by the organisers to engage with local Wikimedians. I therefore did not receive the barest forewarning that the event was to occur in the run-up to Wikimania CT. It is also not immediately apparent from the statement as to exactly how the ‘colocated conference’ aimed to be inclusive. Nevertheless I blogged about it on Medialternatives.com, emailed a request for admission to the organisers, which included tweeting this request to some of the speakers, (one of whom acknowledged my tweet) and then requested admission from the organiser in person.

4. As an anti-apartheid activist, and veteran of the struggle for freedom and democracy, I wholly concur with the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us” and reject any inferences which may be drawn in regard to SC support for the matter, of the closed door event. The organisers should know better than to host an event in South Africa, a country with a specific and painful history and where principles of openness and transparency are paramount, and then to embark upon a course of action leading into the main event (“Main Event”) that is at odds with the values suggested by the founding statement. This smacks of wanting to manipulate the opportunity, in other words, proclaiming ‘inclusivity of marginalised persons’ at an event held in South Africa, but when confronted with the reality, the tragic legacy of apartheid and separate development, looking the other way to exclusivity.

5. That I met with the organiser of the ‘Decolonising’ event without incident is now common cause, and notwithstanding the allegations contained in the earlier James Alexander email, which you have also acknowledged in writing, is a troubling case of mistaken identity. What is disputed is the manner and circumstances of the refusal of admission, (I have yet to receive a satisfactory reason aside from “it was closed” ) and thus reject the further reason given by another SC member, that it was because apparently ‘I was not indigenous’, as many non-indigenes attended. For the record, I am legally black and accepted as a Khoisan by the Khoisan National Assembly.

6. With regards to preparation of the main conference programme. My User Talk Page reflects three notices in this regard. A 9 May 2018 ‘Wikimania scholarship application for SA and SADC” (for which I was grateful), the second a 20 May 2018 Wikipedia Capacity Building Workshop ‘hosting Asaf Bartov from the Wikimedia Foundation for 5 days where he will be conducting a series of Capacity Building Workshops in Johannesburg and Cape Town” and a 20 June 2018 ‘Application for WikiIndaba Steering Committee Open.’

7. To say the one ‘capacity building’ event ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ which I attended in 2012 was inadequate for the purpose, or that its sequel this year, barely two months before Wikimania CT, and six years later, was a case of ‘too little too late’, is putting it mildy. I would have thought that a National Wikimania, rather than one or two local events would have been a strict requirement before hosting a conference of this size, magnitude, scope and importance.

8. The result is more than simply a lost opportunity. It is a massive embarrassment for the local community, if not those who arrived on our shores. To expect me to have to remind the National Steering Committee that the tragedy of apartheid, an ongoing and prescient saga whose effects are far from over, is the single most important topic defining us as South Africans is beneath contempt and must be rejected as unreasonable, given the circumstances.

9. Nevertheless I appreciate the time, energy and effort spent on finally hosting Wikimania. Had it not been for my work-load, I might have made myself available for the single round of capacity building this year, and would have certainly volunteered for the SC. However giving us all 5 days forewarning for the capacity building workshop, and then two days notice of the SC election, is surely beneath the pale of reasonableness and scheduling?

10. Providing local Wikipedians very little in the way of support and an effective zero notice for topic submissions is however, what I do find to be risible. Claiming that ‘banner ads were placed’, and/or conveyed via the mailing list, is simply not good enough, and raises the question, what is the use of posting notices on our User Talk Page? And further, why no local marketing campaign via radio and print media? Why no outreach to schools etc?

11. With regard to the allegations that I have in any way abused the ‘safe space policy’ by photographing and/or videoing guests and attendees outside the venue AT A CO-LOCATED EVENT without their permission, or that it was necessary for me to register as a journalist and to gain permission in order to accomplish same, I once again refute the allegations and point you to our Bill of Rights, enshrining press freedom.

12. Further, in regard to the allegation of intimidation, I intend to provide you with my short video documentary, available in due course, (and pending final rendering) where you will find quite the opposite, and assert, that yes I too felt uncomfortable and intimidated, at being on the outside of the event, given the importance of the issues at hand, and no, I refuse to apologise for this making anyone else feel uncomfortable.

13. I hereby reserve all my rights to continue raising these and other important issues affecting both Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation in public and as needs be.

Sincerely yours

David Robert Lewis

021 788 3119
082 425 1454

davidrobertlewis@yahoo.co.uk

@ubuntupunk

Wikimedia ZA Douglas Scott, responds

Dear David,

I am writing in reply to the email (and attached letter) you sent the legal department at the Wikimedia Foundation on the 6 August 2018 (and copying me in on) in my capacity as the organising chairperson of Wikimania 2018.

It is with great regret that I learnt of your removal from Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town.  You have been an editor on Wikipedia for many years now and have attended Wikimedia ZA events in the past which is why Wikimedia ZA granted you a complementary ticket to attend Wikimania 2018.  The the best of my knowledge you are correct that you did not attend WikiIndaba in Tunisia; James was mistakenly referring to another individual based upon incorrect information given to him.

A few points on how Wikimania is run.  Hosting a Wikimania is a group effort between the local organising team (of which I am a member), the Wikimedia Foundation host team (who assist in many of the more practical aspects of hosting Wikimania), and the Wikimedia community broadly (who host the individual events, workshops and presentations that make up the conference).

Community derived events which makes up the vast majority of events at Wikimania were hosted by community members who applied to host them or present.  Their applications were passed by the program committee.  The program committee is made up of a group of volunteer Wikipedia community members whose responsibility it is to select presentations that will be hosted during the main conference.  Public announcements (advertised both through mailing lists and banner adds on Wikipedia) were made over the course of a month this year during which any community member could apply to give a presentation or host an event during the main conference.

The program committee sought to select events based on their fit to the theme of bridging knowledge gaps.  You refer to the absence of any event dealing ‘apartheid memory’.  If someone had made an application to host an event or presentation talking about that then the program committee would have seriously considered accepting such a presentation.   However to the best of my knowledge no one made any such applications.  Therefore there were no discussions on that subject.  In the future I would suggest applying to give such a presentation if you hope to see one happening.  Be bold (but not abrasive).

Some events were large full day or multiple day events.  Such events could only be hosted during the pre-conference due to logistical reasons.  The Decolonising the Internet event was one such event.

Closure of the Mind, Independent Media’s suppression of open debate and a free press

WHEN the Independent Group was taken over by a consortium lead by Dr Iqbal Survé, there were some like me, who hoped for a fresh start. The group quickly ran into criticism, the least of which is the highly publicized debacle surrounding the firing of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois.

After a settlement was extricated at Labour Court, the group once again ran into trouble with Dasnois accusing the group of being in breach of the settlement and so Independent was sanctioned by the Press Council, which ordered the group to apologise for a number of misleading headlines.

Screenshot_2018-06-18_20-11-02.png
Independent media can’t spell.

No sooner had the ruling by the Press Council been issued, when Independent announced it was withdrawing from the council, and a structure which had arrived out of decades of frenetic negotiation around a government-sanctioned self-regulatory mechanism. The reasons for the withdrawal were attacked for ‘not making logical sense‘.

“In ditching the Press Council, Independent Media listed as its main complaint the Press Council’s reluctance to reintroduce the highly contentious waiver as its reason for ditching the Press Council” wrote Julie Reid.

Previously, complainants waved legal action in order to bring their complaints under the auspices of the council, however the very reason the council had been set up was threefold. Firstly to avoid government regulation and intervention in the press. Secondly, to provide the public with a cost effective and impartial forum for making complaints and thirdly, to provide a Press Code that was not simply written by one organisation.

In its stead, Independent reverted to an internal Ombudsman system which had been in place during the years of the former Argus Group, and a state of affairs for which the Argus had already apologised during the TRC media hearings. In the process Independent dumped the Press Code, and formulated its own narrow view of the press, which appears to by nothing less than gabbering sycophancy so far as government is concerned.

In this sense, not only was the industry seemingly ‘regulating itself’, but the company was now distancing its titles from the legal system as well as the press council framework, in effect picking its own favorite regulator, a friendly Muslim, whilst playing a dual role of both editorial and inhouse complaints resolution. Thus setting in motion a situation where Dr Iqbal SurvĂ©, and his male-dominated and sectarian newsrooms, possessed an administrative override on any complaints made to his news organisation. While women still figure in writing and reporting, they are remarkably absent when it comes to editorship within the group and where they do affect editorial, they invariably occupy a symbolic role.

Of concern, is that there is currently no means of enforcing the Press Code when it comes to the Independent Group, and with our legal system being rather expensive and out of reach of the ordinary public, the result has been positively stifling.

Gone was any effort to balance news stories affecting a range of controversial subjects around the world, in particular the USA and Middle East.

Gone was divergence of opinion on the opinion pages.

Gone was the plethora of letters debating, disagreeing, and calling editors and writers to task.

In their place were editorial love letters, and weekly ravings by self-styled news correspondents such as “foreign editor” Shannon Ebrahim and “analyst” Ebrahim Harvey, two obviously Muslim persons, followed by lengthy and often turgid materialist and industrialist views of South Africa and the World. A world viewed via the narrow Islamic prism of the likes of Aneez Salie and Aziz Hartley.

A former shipping columnist Brian Ingpen for instance, is now a regular opinion piece in the Cape Times op-ed pages, providing the dull rigmerol of shipping information flowing into the gutters, alongside dense and impenetrable press releases, like that issued by DIRCO yesterday presumably testifying to the joys of a BRICS summit to be held in Joburg and thus available to buyers of the now 10 page rag, in 10 point type.

Independent titles in recent months have come to resemble government tearsheets, with short thrift given to concerns about whose opinion in the broader community should receive priority over the daily thrust of a hopelessly compromised news agency ANA, and equally boring headlines, with the one exception, that it appears INM have now launched a sports magazine, if only to allay fears that the group is going under.

Suppression of views with which one disagrees are the hallmark of authoritarian regimes. As a well-known commentator puts it, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Having a daily press the size of Independent producing government propaganda and fan-mail for the SurvĂ© Group, whilst censoring opinion, can only have the opposite effect to liberal democracy. There is a reason why Pravda is now a fashion label and a single newspaper in Russia, and is no longer the state news agency for the Soviet Union.

NOTE: This writer is currently under an unspoken ‘editorial fatwa’ issued by INM with respect to his letters to the press see here and here and here, thus content carried by Medialternatives.