Independent Media hypocrisy exposed

CAPE TOWN: The Independent Group has refused a request for information relating to its liability as a corporate entity and ongoing participation as a media company in civil litigation. The request filed on behalf of the Alternative Media Forum (AMF) — an ad hoc grouping of media activists and civil society organisations — was submitted to Independent’s Chief Executive Officer, Tony Howard, but access to the information was refused.

In a legal brief, Independent News & Media (INM) has supplied a number of reasons why it believes it should not grant access to the information requested and why it believes the information is protected from public disclosure. None of the reasons supplied address the key issues raised by the AMF relating to the group’s responsibility as a media organisation to keep the public informed.

According to INM’s lawyers, “the right to be informed is not a right”, and consequently one may draw the conclusion that the group is neither serious about press freedom, nor bound by the Press Code of Professional Practice as it relates to corporate affairs. According to a copy of the Press Code of Professional Practice supplied by the Press Ombudsman, to which Independent is a signatory, “the basic principle to be upheld is that the freedom of the press is indivisible from and subject to the same rights and duties as that of the individual and rests on the public¢s fundamental right to be informed and freely to receive and to disseminate opinions.”

The AMF intends appealing against INMs decision, before bringing an action before a court of law, that could force full public disclosure. The response by the Independent Group, calls into question the sincerity of its own executives in furthering the interests of the media as a whole. The contradiction between the way the group views its business and the demand for accountability and press freedom should also be noted. The interests of media bosses, like so many claims of this nature, are being seen as paramount to the interests of a free press, in a plutocracy that sees small publishers as a threat to their own survival. Furthermore, INM, via its various corporate holdings, continue to operate as if it has sole proprietorship over the daily press in South Africa. The group has now flouted both common sense and decency, by not disclosing this information, and is evidently hiding behind a veil of corporate secrecy.

In effect, the refusal to give details of civil litigation to which it has has been a party, simply because INM is a “private company”, renders litigation in lower courts impotent and without any remedial value. The group recently refused to supply details of a court case which it lost in 2003, while using the information to smear the convener of the Alternative Media Forum, David Robert Lewis.

The Alternative Media Forum is now claiming in papers that will be filed for review, that although INM is a private body that enjoys certain commercial rights, as a press group these rights have been superceded by the public’s “right to know”, furthermore, media interests gained via the constitutional guarantees on free speech, transparency, openness and access to information should be open to public scrutiny. It is the function of a public role which has added emphasis to these rights, and the public has a right to be informed of matters relating to freedom of the press.

There will be a meeting to discuss this response and other events surrounding press freedom and the media at a future date and venue to be announced.

ALTERNATIVE MEDIA FORUM
PO BOX 4398, CAPE TOWN 8000 RSA

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ALTERNATIVE MEDIA FORUM
PO BOX 4398, CAPE TOWN 8000 RSA

PARROT MEDIA: Questioning AIDS and BIRD FLU statistics.

JUDGING from reactions to my last posting, its a big crime in this country to question statistics of any kind. Gosh, what happens if those numbers are wrong? Some empiricists could lose their jobs while we all get into a flap about fowls dying of influenza, or mother hens keeling over from the sniffles. Imagine, if we’re wrong, your budgerigar could die.

Aside from not being much of a bird lover (Okay, okay, I do like pelicans and flamingos) I would rather be a dead duck than be forced to believe some bird-brained bullshit I don’t believe in, which is why I am willing to fight to the last penguin standing for my freedom to speak. Call me a common tit but as far as I’m concerned, Independent Group are a bunch of parrots, repeating whatever they find on the wires and unwilling to check the facts.

After being placed under discursive sanctions for questioning AIDS statistics, I was finally banned for my post-911 views on US imperialism and the war on terror. Nobody believes in the War against Terror anymore, but there are sure as hell a lot of people who believe in the Bird Flu Pandemic (50 deaths and counting).

Did I forget to mention AIDS? Used to be a deadly disease until it got downgraded by the Centre for Disease Control after a scientific breakthrough in 1996. Knocked you off your perch, didn’t I?

PS: Aren’t we all terrified about the thought of cows dying from HIV? Did anybody bother to ask them how they feel, or was the last MAD COW EPIDEMIC just another one of those newsroom decisions, one makes on the spur of the moment, and with profits in mind?

PPS: Any guess as to how much is going to be spent on keeping the official death toll from BIRD FLU secret? How much is this story worth to the media in terms of bullshit and spin-doctoring? Public interest organisations that stand to make millions from scare stories about the 1918 flu disaster in a world before antibiotics and vaccines…and the hysteria continues.