Adri Senekal de Wet, Stratcom And Karma

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Sekunjalo Rogue Unit

“Dr Survé challenged Sam Sole from amaBhungane to publicly state his involvement in apartheid journalism as a young reporter. He did that, with a “long and short answer”. To summarise, he was making all sorts of excuses for being a trooper in the army, and during, or after, that he wrote some articles that I think he is ashamed of.”

Adri Senekal de Wet A personal invitation to Sam Sole to confront the truth 15/2/2019

“Were it not for people like Sam Sole, this country would not know a thing about state capture.

One day, Sam and those others will be recognised as professionals, if not heroes.

You, Adri, will end up on the wrong side of history. You may not realise this, but karma is not a brand of margarine.”

Brendan Seery When an editor crosses the line 18/2/2019

“Was the routinely-unethical journalism of Sekunjalo Independent Media not emphasised on 24 January by the gist of the following press release?”

Statement on court victory

Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki and Anton Harber vs EFF and others

24 January 2020

“Judge L T Modiba of the South Gauteng High Court this morning ordered the EFF and its leaders to withdraw their statements about the two of us, apologise within 24 hours and pay damages. She declared the allegations linking us to Stratcom as untrue and unlawful.

The judgment is a victory for truth. It will be welcomed by all of those who want to see public figures held accountable for making unsubstantiated and defamatory attacks on journalists and others.

These statements were not just an attack on us as individuals, but an onslaught on our capacity as journalists to do our work unhindered. The ruling is a victory for journalism and journalists.”

Thandeka Gubule-Mbeki

Anton Harber

You can read the newspaper reports  about the judgment and its sanction here and here and here and here.

Advocate Dario Milo, the country’s leading authority on defamation law, described the Modiba ruling as an ‘important disinformation judgment.’

The EFF quickly apologised and retracted its totally unjustified and defamatory ‘Stratcom’ slur against two veteran journalists who played a singular media role over decades in opposing apartheid.

The court found that the EFF was unable to provide any proof linking Thandeka Gubule-Mbeki and Anton Harber with the notorious apartheid-era, security police ‘Stratcom’ propaganda unit.

What holds true for the EFF in its unjustified linkage of Stratcom with Gubule-Meki and Harber holds equally true in general for the linkage in April 2018 by Iqbal Survé’s newspapers of Stratcom with Sam Sole, Tim Cohen and Ann Crotty.

It is even more relevant in connection with Adri Senekal de Wet’s unjustified linkage in February last year of Sam Sole with ‘apartheid journalism’ in which the only truth is a reference to Sole’s compulsory military service.

There has been no concomitant apology or retraction from de Wet or Sekunjalo Independent Media for these slurs – indeed, by Monday morning, January 26, I had been unable to find any reference to the Modiba judgment on the IOL or ANA websites or in Iqbal Survé’s newspapers and I note in passing that censorship by omission is the hallmark of the propagandist.

The article linking Sam Sole, Ann Crotty and Tim Cohen to Stratcom was manifestly defamatory in that it was clearly intended to damage the reputations of three respected journalists and did not, even remotely, meet the usual defences against defamation – truth, public interest and provability.

What does not surprise me in this context is the predictable absence of public remonstration – let alone condemnation – from Sekunjalo’s alleged media ombudsman, Jovial Rantao who, three years ago, promised that his tenure would be characterised by ‘tough love’ when it came to unethical journalism, but who has been resolutely silent since then.

He clearly does not want experience what befell Alide Dasnois and Chris Whitfield or what happened to Wally Mbhele  and one begins to understand why Sekunjalo Independent Media followed the lead of the Guptas in choosing to remove itself from SA Press Council jurisdiction.

Adri Senekal de Wet uses Sole’s military service to link him to ‘apartheid journalism’ but, like more than half a million young South African men over decades, Sole went to the army, when the National Party was in power, not as a volunteer but because, as a conscript, he was legally obliged to.

“There were harsh consequences for those who disobeyed the call-up. Their choices? A court martial and up to six years in prison, exile in another country or going into hiding in South Africa.”

Theresa Edimann The Conversation 2/9/2015

In her attack on Sole, de Wet provides not a shred of evidence to prove that he collaborated with the National Party regime during the apartheid years, referring only to ‘articles’ which she does not identify.

The important distinction between the EFF’s coupling of Stratcom with Thandeka Gubule-Mbeki and Anton Harber and the coupling by Sekunjalo Independent Media of Stratcom with Sam Sole, Tim Cohen and Ann Crotty is that while Winnie Mandela specifically mentioned the former both in her TRC testimony and in the subsequent documentary, she made no mention of Sole, Crotty and Cohen in the Stratcom context.

In her ruling last week, Judge Lebogang Modiba makes the following point:

“[87] The allegations are harmful not only to the person of the applicants but to their profession as journalists and their standing as senior journalists. As already stated above, the allegations also have the potential to bring the media into disrepute, and to sow disunity and mistrust in society and in the political landscape.”

SANEF similarly described the Sekunjalo’s ‘Stratcom’ smear against Cohen, Crotty and Sole as a ‘sad day’ for South African journalism:

“The orchestrated way in which all the group’s newspapers published this defamatory piece today shows something else at play, which purpose cannot be to serve the public. SANEF will urgently engage our members at Independent Media to convey our deep concern about this unfair episode and gain a better understanding of the issues at play that are seemingly not serving journalism.

SANEF stands in solidarity with editors and journalists within the Independent Group who value editorial independence but are seemingly powerless to stop these stories.”

The point about Sekunjalo’s unethical journalism  has been made repeatedly by former editors in the book Paper Tiger, in the sworn Mpati commission testimony of former AYO executives, Kevin Hardy and Siphiwe Nodwele, in a recent Daily Maverick article by Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya, by Al Jazeera journalist Azad Essa , by local newspapers, repeatedly by former subscribers and by those who have suffered as a consequence of its lies.

In his rebuttal of her attack – To Adri Senekal De Wet: The soul is dead at Independent Sole makes the point that his army service provided the motivation for a subsequent career in journalism. One of many highlights of that career is the Guptaleaks exposé which revealed state capture in all its damaging evil.

So what role did Iqbal Survé and Adri Senekal de Wet and Sekunjalo Independent Media play in the Guptaleaks exposé?

None whatsoever.

Here’s a quote from an unchallenged article by the former political editor of the Cape Times, Dougie Oakes, which is headlined Time to go, Iqbal:

“When the Gupta Tapes story broke, Independent Media was left high and dry – out of the loop. We were told we had been ignored because it was felt we ‘could not be trusted’.

And I think our sources were correct in this respect.”

In the same article he makes another salient point:

“I’ve never come across a group where lies have been peddled with such glib assurance …”

We should not be surprised by the Fake News article linking Sam Sole, Tim Cohen and Ann Crotty to the apartheid-era security police propaganda unit because Sekunjalo Independent Media has, since 2013, become the country’s leading exponent of Fake News – see here and here and here and here and here to cite a few examples.

In fact, this is not the first time that such a Fake News attack on journalists has appeared in Iqbal Survé’s newspapers.

In August 2016 a scurrilous article – allegedly written by Sekunjalo’s ‘Journalism Intern Investigative Unit’ was dutifully published throughout the country by the supposedly-autonomous editors of Iqbal Survé’s newspapers.

The 2016 Sekunjalo article alleged that there was a joint and malevolent plot among an unaffiliated but conspiratorial cabal of journalists working for different news organisations throughout the country to damage the reputation of Iqbal Survé and his commercial interests – in essence, exactly the same claim that was subsequently made against the alleged ‘Stratcom’ journalists.

Many of the allegedly Machiavellian journalists named in this supposed 2016 country-wide conspiracy had no connection besides their shared profession and had never met or communicated with each other.

Fast forward to November last year and Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya writes an article headlined ‘I was fooled by Iqbal Survé for Daily Maverick.

Here’s the sentence in his Daily Maverick article that jumped out at me – with my emphasis:

“The other incident was the refusal to take responsibility when lawyers acting for the company sought to place on me as title editor at the time an article purporting to have been written by an investigative unit (that did not exist) and placed as an advertorial.”

So Moya says the ‘Journalism Intern Investigative Unit’ did not exist – just like the Newseum competition that the Aneez Salie and Iqbal Survé routinely claimed the Cape Times was winning against the world’s most famous newspapers, just like the alleged ‘Stratcom’ plot.

Such ad hominem attacks on respected journalists such as Sam Sole, Ann Crotty, Tim Cohen, Carol Paton, Alide Dasnois, Ferial Haffajee and Terry Bell have been an extraordinary and unprecedented feature of Iqbal Survé’s tenure as a newspaper company owner and they are unique to Sekunjalo Independent Media.

Paper Tiger has made this a matter of undisputed public record.

These attacks continue unabated, as do the imbongi articles which lavish Survé with praise – here’s a hyperlinked timeline of recent articles by Ayanda Mdluli:

17/11/2019Sekunjalo Independent Media liquidation move a witch-hunt

21/11/2019Moral Leadership – Dr Iqbal Survé leading where Ferial Haffajee should follow

22/11/2019Ferial Haffajee, all Iqbal Survé did was stop white privilege

23/11/2019Alide Dasnois: The only editor who did not lead with Mandela’s death

24/11/2019Independent Media here for the long haul, we’re here to tell the truth

1/12/2019Ferial Haffajee, Daily Maverick, lies and a ghost media mogul….

This despite constant assurances of a commitment to ethical journalism …

Like the EFF, The Citizen has apologised unreservedly for coupling the names of Thandeka Gubule-Mbeki and Anton Harber and Stratcom but there has been no apology in the Sekunjalo newspapers for doing this to Sam Sole and Ann Crotty and Tim Cohen.

In April 2018, Adri Senekal de Wet wrote an article headlined (see below) Un-ethical (sic) and fake news should be criminalised.

If ever there was an article deserving of that treatment it was A personal invitation to Sam Sole to confront the truth.

The Modiba judgment makes that point with trenchant clarity.

She did not respond to my follow-up article.

The deadline for submissions to the SANEF commission of inquiry into unethical news practices is this Friday. Its findings will be made public in May.

This will be an ideal opportunity for Adri Senekal de Wet to comment on the cynically unethical way in which Sekunjalo Independent Media has coupled the names of Sam Sole/Ann Crotty/Tim Cohen and Stratcom in the same article without providing the slightest proof of any collaboration between these journalists and the apartheid-era security police.

What last week’s Modiba judgment and R40,000 sanction show is that the days of contemptuously besmirching the reputations of reputable journalists with the Stratcom epithet without  providing the slightest evidential proof or justification are over.

Sam Sole remains what he has always been, an outstanding investigative journalist who has served his calling and his country well and is admired by his peers. He ranks right up there with Info Scandal legends like Chris Day, Mervyn Rees and Kit Katzin.

“You, Adri, will end up on the wrong side of history. You may not realise this, but karma is not a brand of margarine.”

Brendan Seery When an editor crosses the line 18/2/2019