Govt cheques won't save Independent Newspapers

Rhoda Kadalie on Iqbal Surve's great purge of the media group

Let's set the cat amongst the pigeons once and for all.

Iqbal Surve's intentions with the euphemistically named Independent News & Media Plc (Independent Group) are so transparent that he may as well rename his media company, the "Royal Air Force" - in memory of former Premier Rasool's propaganda campaign against his political opponents during his term of office 2004 to 2008.

In similar mode, Surve has started the great purge, ridding his media company of its senior editorial team. Bringing in the once respected Karima Brown from Gauteng, she has to replace the ‘purged' with politically- and ethnically-connected crony journalists (see here).

There are enough sycophants waiting in the wings to do their bidding and who will stop at nothing to promote the ruling party. It therefore comes as no surprise (Mail & Guardian 24-30 January) to witness the resurrection of the notorious Joseph Aranes in another guise, determined to wreak havoc with his campaign of vengeance, against his former bosses. This man is not to be trusted given his past reputation of under-cover work for the ANC. The ubiquitous Marius Fransman just knows which puppet strings to pull to safeguard his senior position in the party. Desperate times, indeed, lead to desperate measures!

The embittered Aranes and his ill-named Media Transformation Movement in SA are ready bait for Desperate Dan's bidding. Building on their "brown envelope" experience, the same names that were involved with Rasool and his ‘air force' in the ANC's ‘Information Scandal' seem to reappear from the shadows.

Operating covertly with ludicrous names such as Africa-China People's Friendship Association, Uhuru Media, and the Progressive Professionals Forum, the M&G's journalists Raymond Joseph and Sam Sole have done a splendid job in joining the dots between these nefarious organisations, to expose Fransman, and his connection with these groups. By now he has become the master of dirty tricks, not least for all his attempts to unseat Premier Helen Zille.

It is only through patronage that these mediocre media opportunists will find jobs. Instead of improving their journalistic skills by further study, these aparatchiks know that they can get a grasp on power only by perpetuating their cloak and dagger tactics. As such they are the antithesis of media transformation and need look no further than read the obituary of recently deceased Ghanaian BBC journalist and anchorman Komla Dumor to understand what true journalism is all about.

Described as "the face of a new and enterprising Africa", this guy went through the ranks to become one of the most respected and loved journalists on the continent, ultimately landing a job with the prestigious BBC. From simple beginnings, racing around Accra on a scooter, he commuted between his radio job and University studies, determined to conquer the post-colonial glass ceiling by becoming one of Africa's leading lights in journalism.

Like most of the best journalists in the world he did not study journalism but the social sciences, followed by a MA in Public Administration at Harvard that enabled him to refine his profession. Unlike Joseph Aranes and crew, for whom patronage is the only ticket to power, Dumor excelled in exposing corruption in government rather than, like them, behave like government's handmaidens.

The Independent Media Group's house is on fire, ignited by Surve himself. The public is watching and will vote with their money. If Surve thinks advertising from government will sustain his company, like with the New Age, he is living in cloud cuckoo land. The fourth estate is supposed to keep a check on the executive, parliament and the judiciary - not ask for cheques!

This article first appeared in Die Burger.

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