Dasnois portrayal inaccurate - Independent

2014-07-09 21:07
Former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois (Cape Times via Twitter)

Former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois (Cape Times via Twitter)

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Johannesburg - The way the Open Democracy Advice Centre (Odac) portrayed the dismissal of former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois was misleading, Independent Newspapers said on Wednesday.

"There are a number of factual inaccuracies contained in your [Odac's] statement which have the effect of misrepresenting the true circumstances surrounding Ms Dasnois's dismissal," chief of staff Zenariah Barends said in a statement.

This follows an Odac statement where representative Alison Tilley said Dasnois's dismissal had created "a chilling effect among the editors and journalists in the Independent Group".

Tilley said Independent took steps to dismiss Dasnois, instituting a disciplinary hearing against her in May.

Among "multiple charges", the most significant was to run a story about a public protector report on the Sekunjalo Consortium, the controlling shareholder in Independent Newspapers.

This was as the front page lead on the morning of former president Nelson Mandela's death, on 6 December last year.

"The public protector found, among other things, that Sekunjalo had benefited from an R800m a year government tender which was improperly awarded. She has now formally been dismissed," Tilley said.

"This was despite of the fact that the Cape Times published a special four-page 'Mandela' edition on that [6 December] morning, containing news about his death, photographs and tributes."

'The most significant'

Barends said Odac were wrong in stating the decision to run the public protector story was the most significant charge against Dasnois.

"In fact, this did not comprise one of the disciplinary charges at all, let alone 'the most significant' one," Barends said.

"The relevant misconduct allegation pertained to Ms Dasnois's failure to lead editorially in the 6 December 2013 edition of the Cape Times with the death of Nelson Mandela, a story which was indisputably the most newsworthy global story of the day."

It was this failure to lead editorially that was one of the reasons for her dismissal, Barends said

Odac's statement also failed to disclose that Dasnois was facing four misconduct allegations.

All of these were serious, nor did Odac refer to the incompatibility or incapacity element of the hearing, which was a significant separate basis for Dasnois's dismissal.

Barends said Odac had also quoted selectively from the disciplinary chairperson's report.

"There were standard operating procedures [SOPs] for such an event [Mandela's death] and that regular meetings in preparation for this had taken place over the year," she said.

"These were not followed and Ms Dasnois was aware of the SOPs."

While a "wrapper" on Mandela's death was released with the 6 December edition of the Cape Times, it did not carry the same status as the front page of a main edition of a newspaper, with many readers not receiving it.

"There is also no basis for your statement that Dasnois's dismissal has created a 'chilling effect' among editors and journalists in the Independent Group," she said.

"Properly viewed, Ms Dasnois's dismissal is a matter of misconduct and incompatibility/incapacity in the workplace."

Dasnois's lawyer Jason White said earlier on Wednesday she would approach the Labour Court following her dismissal.

"The matter has been conciliated by the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration]. We are now heading to the labour court," White said.

Read more on:    independent newspapers  |  alide dasnois  |  cape town  |  media

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