The fight against the white media begins today - MTMSA

Wesley Douglas says the racists are rallying to stop Sekunjalo's march to transform the Independent newspapers


The Movement for Transformation of the Media in South Africa (MTMSA) was started to address the lack of transformation in the South African 4th estate. The movement is made up of various organizations and individuals concerned with the slow pace of transformation in the media space.

We have banded together to place media transformation at the forefront in the minds of people. MTMSA organizations consist of umbrellas bodies such as the Western Cape Social Economic Development Forum that has hundreds of civil society organizations, NGO's and trade unions as members and runs the Economic Equality Charter Campaign. Other organizations participating in the movement include SANCO, NAFCOC, Youth Progressive Forum, churches and various faith based organizations, such as the PPF and others.

After nearly twenty years of democracy we see that there is a lack of transformation in ownership and management of media houses in South Africa and that there is a trend among media houses to become initiators and participators of political and social change rather than independent commentators and reporters thereof.

We have seen a concerted effort by largely white owned and run media houses to discredit black business and political leaders in South Africa whilst at the same time ignoring the shortcomings of their white compatriots. Truly they have misappropriated the old adage that says "the pen is mightier than the sword" and have re-written it to read that "the pen of media is mightier than the sword of black governance".

Racially biased and skewed negative reporting is the order of the day and the progressive black business people who dare to come up against the white establishment and take ownership of established media companies have found themselves becoming targets of orchestrated smear campaigns. They are unable to redress the injustices and imbalances of the past that they inherit as owners, due to calls for political correctness and racial sensitivities. As civil society we hold the buying power in our hands and we are demanding free and fair reporting and true journalistic freedom in South Africa.

We demand transformation of the media houses and companies so that more black editors, sub-editors and management staff of color are appointed who represent the thinking of the black majority of South Africans, rather than the empowered racially advantaged few.

MTMSA will embark on a series of boycotts, demonstrations and actions which will support black ownership of media houses and fight against white media monopolies and cartels. We cannot sit back as the platforms of traditional and online media is used to usher in a new era of white domination in South Africa. The media is meant to be independent, non-biased and racially impartial but the reporting in South Africa has grown significantly more antagonistic of black business and politicians in general and more and more supportive of white politicians and business people.

Today we will be countering the picket by R2K and SANEF by picketing at the same time and venue in support of Sekanjalo and its attempts to clean up and diversify and transform its editorial staffing. We are aware that Mwasa and the reactionary organisations SANEF and the Right to Know plan to protest outside Newspaper House and have placed demands on Sekanjalo - the new owners of Independent News and Media SA. 

Following the removal of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois, these organisations have been scrambling support to have her reinstated. This is the editor of the only newspaper in the country to not reflect Tata Nelson Mandela's death in the paper a day after he had passed. For an editor to miss one of the biggest news stories of the decade is reason enough to be axed.

Add the declining sales of the paper and inherent racism displayed in their coverage of general and political news stories, it is a no-brainer that she should have been fired a long time ago. Instead her white bosses like Tony Howard and Chris Whitfield are keeping her there, backing her with support, even though she had caused South Africa great embaressment, by failing to honour Madiba in the headlines, as every publication has done.

Now that Sekunjalo has started a process of transforming the newsrooms, management and content of the newspapers across the country, those protecting narrow neo-liberal and racist white interests are crying foul. These reactionary individuals are now trying to create the impression that media freedom is under siege. How desperate and disingenuous!

The attack on Sekunjalo has got nothing to with press freedom or the ‘Right To Know', it has everything to do with the fact that the company is prepared to transform a media house that has for more than a century been supportive of colonialism, apartheid and is anti-black in its engagements with society. Now the racists are rallying to stop the march to transform the newspapers and its content to reflect the reality that is the "new South Africa".

These reactionaries have the gall to want to dictate how Sekunjalo run business. They want to decide who must sit on Sekunjalo's editorial advisory board. Is this because they believe that only white people can look after the interest of the fourth estate? When it comes to real issues like service delivery, poverty, violence against women and children we don't see white liberals standing shoulder to shoulder with the local black communities but when white power is under threat they pick up pickets and posters and march in the streets.

They want a puppet editor (of Tony Howard and Chris Whitfield) who has very little understanding of news values in a democratic society to be "unconditionally reinstated". Alternatively, they want a suitable settlement to compensate for all Dasnois' losses, "including the indignities she has had to suffer". Yet we as readers had to suffer the indignities of her poor editorial choices, the racist vitriolic that gets peddled as news content. Why does Dasnois not follow through on her threat and go to the CCMA with her allegations?

Where were these concerned union members and "media freedom activists" when black editors were fired, redeployed and retrenched at publishing house like Media 24, TMG and even at Independent. A few years ago the Independent's parliamentary bureau was the who's who of political journalists. Yet all of them left the company because they could not tolerate working for a company that continually changed their stories to suit their DA political masters views.

And then there is the arrogance that can only emanate from the apartheid era. We want "written assurance that Sekunjalo Holdings and Sekunjalo Investments will never again sue, or threaten to sue, any of Independent Newspapers' titles, editors and editorial staff". What arrogance!

As a broad-based community movement, we call on Sekunjalo to speed up the transformation process at Independent Newspapers. We want to see more black journalists, black managers and editors and the content of the newspapers reflecting a broader diversity than is the case now. We call on Sekunjalo to investigate the disparities in salaries between white staff and black staff at Independent Newspapers. We hear that in some case white staff are earning about 20% more than their black colleagues while doing the same jobs

We will also be launching a range of boycotts by all South Africans who love freedom and want to see free and fair journalism, reporting and editing in South Africa and who with us, believe that the industry needs more transformation. We will target individual publications and name and shame them, publish their transformation and apartheid era track records and call on all their products to be boycotted.

 We will also lobby companies and government to stop placing advertising in these publications and will not stop until true transformation takes place and negative reporting and anti-black reporting is no longer an accepted practice. Companies who fail to remove their advertising from these publications will themselves be targeted for boycotts as willing accomplices to the disempowerment of our people. In contrast to this campaign, we will also call on the public to support publications embracing transformation and will publish a list of these brands for the community.

This is going to be an ongoing campaign that will span across all provinces and across all media platforms including print, radio, television and online media. We are tired of being misrepresented as black South Africans, targeted and lied to by those who pull the strings in the media. We want transformation and we want it now. We are hereby calling for a meeting with Independent Group, both with the Management and the owners to address the issues of transformation at a staffing, editorial, procurement of goods and services and a BBEEE compliance level.

Statement issued by Wesley Douglas, Convener of MTMSA, December 17 2013

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