Close your mind, drop your readers: IOL announce loss of 115 editorial posts

IN 2018 I wrote an opinion piece warning, that closure of debate, in particular the gutting of letters pages of titles published by IOL would lead to ruin. The job of a free press is to reflect public opinion, to guide and mediate popular discourse. As a media freedom watchdog put it: “The backbone of any democracy is an independent, professional and responsible media. Their role is to inform, criticise and stimulate debate.”

The daily press may often colour journalism with its own aims and objectives, but when it does so, willy nilly without concern for its readers, it becomes nothing less than yellow journalism. Political propaganda has no place in the broad-sheets of flag-ship titles such as the Cape Times and Cape Argus.

Over the past months we have seen the encroachment of paid agitprop from Russian and Chinese news agencies, Pravda, Sputnik & Xinhau, promoting BRICS ‘Socialism from Above’ alongside the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To make matters worse, the long-running feud between Dr Iqbal Survé and other news outlets has resulted in a situation in which disputes inform newsroom decisions — a partisan, combative approach which leads to news editors failing to determine fact from fiction. News gathering functions are further stunted by lack of credibility stemming from a discredited Multi-baby scandal.

If management had come clean at the outset, and dealt with the problem at Pretoria News, instead of hunkering down in the basement, other titles may have been saved.

Appointing a complete ignoramus and bigot, Aziz Hartley as group Editor-in-Chief cannot have done IOL any favours, the outcome was to encourage minority parties on the fringes of SA politics to become deal-makers in Anti-Gay Pride coalitions, which resulted in these communities feeling threatened by the group, which to its credit, then belatedly published some defence of LGBT rights, but too late to rectify the damage.

While IOL may have been somewhat quicker to react in this instance, they failed miserably on other fronts.

The Cape Times continues to be stained by a sad episode involving the serialisation of the life and times of a member of the Hitler Youth, this at the very start of its new management. Under Aneez Salie, it has done very little to correct the impression that what is required to gain attention of IOL newsrooms, is membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, if not in fact, then in spirit.

It is a sad day to see titles such as Pretoria News disappear while other titles and Weekend editions are rationalised.

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

IOL forced to apologise for smear campaign targeting Daily Maverick

INDEPENDENT Media have been forced to apologise for their smear campaign. “During March 2020 Daily News published an article titled ‘Daily Maverick asked me to write and do negative tweets about Dr Iqbal Survé’ in print and on its digital platform within Independent Online. The article accused Daily Maverick and its editor Branko Brkic of orchestrating and financially sponsoring a fake news smear campaign against prominent politicians, businessmen and executives, including Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé.”

The source of the article, Modibe Modiba, was later ordered by the High Court to unconditionally retract, apologise, and pay damages for his unlawful and defamatory allegations against Daily Maverick and Mr Brkic. Daily News Editor Ayanda Mdluli, and Independent Online editor Lance Witten hereby unconditionally retract the article and apologise to Daily Maverick and its editor Branko Brkic for the harm that was occasioned through the publication of Mr Modiba’s unlawful and defamatory allegations.

De Lille says ‘schizophrenic, mad’ Ehrenreich has lost the political plot”. Cape Times 17 April refers

(Another unpublished letter to the Cape Times)

Dear Ed

De Lille says ‘schizophrenic, mad’ Ehrenreich has lost the political plot”. Cape Times 17 April refers

The medical dismissal of Tony Ehrenreich by mayor Patricia de Lille has overtones of Nazism. The Nazi regime relegated all those it disagreed with to the ranks of the unfit and unwell. Both the Soviet Union and the Apartheid regime deployed madness and psychiatry in the defense of political policies. During the Brezhnev period psychiatry was used as a tool to eliminate political opponents — all those who openly expressed views that contradicted officially declared dogma.

Under Apartheid hundreds of South Africans were sent to mental asylums by doctors because of their opposition to apartheid where they often underwent forced medical procedures. Dr Aubrey Levin, aka “Dr Shock” used electric shock therapy to “cure” gay conscripts during the apartheid era and is a tragic case in point.

The use of a medical label such as schizophrenia by the mayor is thus extreme cause for concern. She may wish to research her subject a little more, since there is considerable opposition to the use of the term within medical circles.

INM board mischief, mere window-dressing?

Deposed Ivan Fallon

IT’S amazing what difference a week can make in the lives of today’s corporate executives. Take the changing fortune of deposed INM board member Ivan “The Terrible” Fallon, or the fate of media tycoon, Tony O’Reilly, replaced by son Gavin?

After the INM night of the long knives, with one other O’Reilly clan member already tipped to walk the plank, Gavin appears to be the only O’Reilly member with any staying power on the slimmed down board, and one could be forgiven for enjoying a bit of schadenfreude as this palace putsch plays itself out.

The move, labelled as a form of weightwatchers for executives in the media world, will apparently address “trenchant attacks” by dissident shareholder and telecoms billionaire Denis O’Brien who last year commissioned a report which claimed the INM board had too many members allied to O’Reilly.

Tony O’Reilly, a controversial figure has been embroiled in a bitter war of words with O’Brien, said he will retire as chief executive and as a director of the board on 7 May – his 73rd birthday

O’Reilly is still the largest individual shareholder in INM after the Bank of Ireland, with 28.5%, and has been the strategic driving force behind the company for the past 36 years.

His son Gavin, who is currently chief operating officer, will maintain his reign on power, by becoming chief executive-designate with immediate effect and will thus succeed his father in May.

O’Reilly is apparently eager to bury the hatchet with arch-rival O’Brien who will be given three seats on a slimmed down board of directors.

However, such moves have not quelled criticism of the inclusion of Canadian Brian Mulroney, a long-time O’Reilly supporter at the centre of a storm surrounding a bribery and corruption scandal, who is the subject of an international inquiry into financial dealings whilst in office, where he was once the progressive conservative party Prime Minister before stepping down. Mulroney is also accused of taking bribes from German arms-dealer Karlheinz Schrieber, and more recently, of encouraging sponsor-representation at board-room level in INM’s many overseas operations.

South African media analysts have entertained the public with rumours that INM could be selling off its local operation, but there is very little chance that O’Brian will be giving up his stake in the market. Rather, we are likely to see a complete meltdown before anything happens as the group fails to heed warnings by the public to come clean on the Mulroney scandal.

Independent Group Board Member to face ethics committee again

A Canadian government ethics committee wants to hear from Independent Group’s Brian Mulroney again. According to Juliet O’Neill of the  Canwest News Service, Ottawa’s House of Commons ethics committee voted 6-5 on Thursday to recall the former Canadian prime minister to testify yet again about his dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber amidst accusations that the government is dragging its feet on a promised public inquiry.

Mulroney declined an invitation some weeks ago to reappear at the committee, on grounds a formal inquiry will be better equipped, but the motion compels him to come back by June 12 for more questions about his acceptance of at least $250,000 cash from Schreiber shortly after his term as prime minister ended in 1993. Mulroney spokesman Joseph Lavoie deferred comment until Friday.

Mulroney was last seen in South Africa, dining out at Cape Town Castle with Rhodes-Mandela Foundation honcho Sean Johnson while his party was being arraigned over charges of bribery and corruption. Nothing new about the halls of power, but this is the press G-dammit! Is the Cape Times carrying the story?  Not on your life, that would mean facing accusations of bribery and corruption from the very same people they are trying to lynch in the Mo and Shaik scandal.

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Media Freedom: Cape Times gambling on collective amnesia

THE Cape Times is gambling that enough people in this country suffer from collective amnesia – that readers will forget what happened last week, or the week before that, and even last year and the year before. They are waging a bet that a small judgement against them means nothing. The Independent Group can afford to lose every now and then, or so the thinking goes, because it all amounts to nothing.

The cost of a small claim is so minuscule and the fall-out so minute that not paying attention is no big deal. Well, it should be. Not only do we need legislation combating media cartels and cross-ownership of media in this country, but we also need a corporate watchdog, that has the teeth necessary to fine newspapers who rip-off journalists, who rob poor writers blind, in broad daylight one should add, and who end-up suppressing not only their views but the facts behind their views.

It is not enough to have an industry-appointed ombudsman, staffed by the same people who dish out bias in the news. It is not enough to have toothless trade unions like the Media Workers Association, or one or two departments of journalism indebted to big corporate donors for their finances. What we need is press freedom built upon something a lot more stable than large corporations.

A thriving testimony then to small publications: web-logs such as this one, self-made periodicals, microzines, student sheets, political rags, photocopied samizdat, xeroxed manifestos, open soapbox rants, and literature from the gutter. You can make a difference by breaking this story. Take this page (and others) out of the electronic realm. Press scan, print and publish and vote for a vibrant alternative press that is able to advocate and express non-mainstream views. Create a counter-dialogue to the mainstream debate that involves nothing more than the same old voices — one-sided conversations that invariably traverse the same politically-correct contours without taking into account difference, uniqueness, eccentricity, idiosyncrasy and minority opinion.

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