THIS week has seen bold headlines claiming that there is a war going on between the Mail & Guardian M&G and the Independent news group. There have also been claims of editorial interference guiding how the former has reported on the new ownership of Independent.
It all started with an interview M&G journalist Craig McCune did with the new owner of Independent — Dr Iqbal Survé. He wanted to know more about the consortium that made Sekunjalo and had purchased the media group from its previous Irish owners. Instead of answering, Dr Survé accused the newspaper of being “controlled by the CIA”.
He also said that because M&G “started it” he would release information proving his claim to “independent journalists”. The podcast of this was put online and a story was also written with Dr Survé claims.
Hoosain Karjieker, the M&G chief executive, said Dr Survé then approached him to pull the story. “He said if we didn’t, he would sue us and there would be war. I replied that this was not the way the media worked.”
Business Report, part of the Independent group, then ran a front page story claiming that “M&G goes to war after Dr Survé rejects title bid.” It said that the newspaper was reacting angrily and had “vented its anger at the rejection” of the offer made by Trevor Ncube, its owner. Dr Survé was quoted in the article saying, “These guys are being vindictive because I said no to them.”
It also claimed that the then editor of the newspaper, Nic Dawes, had used his position as head of the South African National Editors Forum to lead “a campaign” to scrutinise Sekunjalo’s bid for the Independent group. None of the parties accused were given a right of reply.
The offer had been made in a letter by Ncube to buy three of Independent’s newspapers — The Mercury, Pretoria News and Cape Times. It said, “We are looking forward to entering into serious discussions with you at the earliest opportunity.”
This did not happen and the offer stayed in limbo from February until last week, when the interview with McKune happened.
It was only through the Business Report story that M&G learnt the offer was no more. “I learnt in the media that this is no longer on the table, much to my surprise,” said Karjieker.