Newspapers go head-to-head in war of words

2014-07-23 17:31
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Johannesburg - Independent Newspapers' group executive editor Karima Brown on Wednesday accused Mail & Guardian (M&G) owner Trevor Ncube of telling an "odd bare-faced lie".

"Mr Ncube has called to question the integrity and professionalism of the Independent journalists who have produced our stories on his businesses," she said in a statement.

"Moreover, he has proven that he is not averse to telling the odd bare-faced lie in his defence."

Brown was responding to Ncube's statement on Tuesday about what he called "attacks" from Independent Newspapers on himself and the M&G.

Ncube said a pattern was emerging that every time the M&G contacted Sekunjalo's executive chairperson Iqbal Surve, who owns Independent Newspapers, for comment on a story it turned into an "opportunity to attack".

"I have avoided responding to these attacks because I strongly believe that the wider public does not benefit when publishers fight."

Mail & Guardian chief executive Hoosain Karjieker on Wednesday said the newspaper stood by the statements it had issued on the matter with Independent Newspapers.

"The allegations repeated in Ms Karima Brown’s statement are factually incorrect and distorted," he said.

"We see no need to respond any further on the matter. We will continue in our pursuit of excellent, credible and independent journalism."

Financial health

On Friday, The Star reported that the M&G was facing a cash crunch so severe that suppliers, contributors, and some staff had not been paid for months, and that it had defaulted on its rent.

It reported that the company faced a potential strike over bonuses and incentives, and that two staffers were considering legal action.

Unnamed sources told the newspaper that the crisis was the result of Ncube's loss-making Zimbabwean operations.

It claimed Ncube's Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), which operates newspapers in Zimbabwe, was not financially healthy and that the M&G was being used to subsidise his business interests to keep them afloat. Karjieker denied this.

Brown on Wednesday called on Ncube to challenge the factual basis of what The Star and Independent Newspapers reported.

"Our stories are legitimate inquiries into the financial health of an important South African newspaper and whether it is safe in Mr Ncube's hands," she said.

"The stories were well-sourced, well-researched, balanced, fair and written with due care for the interests of people who still suffer the effects of Mr Ncube's alleged bleeding of the paper."

Brown said since Friday's story, The Star had received more leads and would continue to do its job without fear or favour.

- SAPA
Read more on:    independent newspapers  |  mail & guardian  |  johannesburg  |  media
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