The firing of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois has stirred activists to action. The Right2Know (R2K) and media unions will picket outside the Independent News and Media SA’s (INMSA) Cape Town offices today over what they call the Sekunjalo Independent Media constortium’s (SIM) threat to editorial independence.
“The actions of the new owners of Independent Newspapers, Sekunjalo Holdings, has set a worrying precedent that they acted in a way that threatens the editorial independence of the Cape Times, by dismissing the editor Alide Dasnois and threatening to sue a reporter and Dasnois,” R2k said in a statement. “This was in response to the coverage of the public protector’s report into the issuing of a tender to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium by the Fisheries Department.”
Chairman Iqbal Survé denies Dasnois’ dismissal – or redeployment as he says she was offered another position within the company – saying it was the newspaper’s coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death that Friday that called her leadership into question. In a letter to staff explaining his actions, Survé said editors and management had agreed all the group’s titles would lead with editorial on Mandela’s death. “It therefore goes without saying that on Friday, the senior executives of INMSA were shocked to discover that the only major Independent title that failed to lead editorially with Madiba’s passing was the Cape Times,” he wrote.
Dasnois chose to use a striking image of Mandela as a wraparound the main paper. TIME magazine listed it as one of the 15 best front covers devoted to Mandela.
Tuwani Gumani, general secretary of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA), of which Dasnois is a member, says the processes followed by INMSA/SIM “were not in keeping with national legal prescripts”.
He said INMSA was required to consult with MWASA “before decisions based on operational requirements of the enterprise are made”.
He said the union would not fuel further speculation around why INMSA/SIM decided to remove the editor of the Cape Times, but said the union and its “international friends” would support Dasnois and would “sustain worker rights, journalistic independence, good corporate governance and media freedom”. Gumani said the union was in “constant contact” with INMSA and believes a “solution to this impasse is imminent”.
Meanwhile, R2K said it believed Dasnois was political. “The Right2Know Campaign recognises that in the context there is an urgent need for greater diversity in media ownership and control. However the government’s use of public sector investment funds to purchase Independent Newspapers fails to address the structural concentration of ownership esulting only in a new section of the elite threatening editorial independence in their narrow interests,” it said.
The picket will take place on from 12h00 to 14h00 at 122 St George’s Mall.