9 December 2013
The Independent Newspaper Group (INL) is in considerable turmoil following the effective sacking without notice of the editor of the Cape Times, Alide Desnois, by the putative owner of INL, Iqbal Surve. This bodes ill for the group and poses a possible threat to media freedom.
Before the Sekunjalo-headed consortium took over INL, Iqbal Surve promised both an editorial charter and complete transparency about the new ownership structure. Neither has been forthcoming.
Because of the lack of transparency, there is now considerable — and understandable — speculation about whose interests Iqbal Surve may be serving. This results from the effective dismissal of Alide Desnois and his earlier use of the leader pages of the group’s dailies to air threats against journalists working for the Times Media Group.
These actions run counter to the principle of editorial freedom and non-interference that would be contained in any reasonable charter. If the Independent Group is not to suffer still greater damage to its image and circulations and if we wish to uphold the rights to freedom of information and expression enshrined in the Constitution, it is imperative that such a charter be agreed between the media workers and owners of the group.
Iqbal Surve, the group’s editors, including Alide Desnois, representatives of the staff and regular contributors should meet as a matter of urgency to draw up such a charter and ensure its immediate implementation. Such a move should be encouraged by the labour movement and by all who cherish the principles in the Bill of Rights.