Sekunjalo sues TMG for defamation

Published, 24 March 2017 by Staff reporter, Business Report. 

Sekunjalo Investment Group, which owns Independent Media, announced on Thursday that they have instructed their attorneys Webber Wentzel to institute legal proceedings against Times Media Group (TMG).

The R500 million damages claim follows the publication of an article, “Breaking the News”, authored by Ann Crotty.

Dr Iqbal Survé, Executive Chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Group Picture: Courtney Africa

Sekunjalo said the group would shortly announce similar instructions against other media outlets that have republished the offending article.

Earlier this month Independent Media and the African News Agency (ANA) also announced that they would sue TMG for R200 million and R500m respectively.

Sekunjalo Group portfolio comprises investments in more than 200 companies across the African continent, Switzerland, USA and China, including shareholdings and partnerships with 9 multinational companies operating in Africa. The group has significant investments in South Africa with major listed and private companies, all of whom directly and indirectly employ in excess of 115 000 people.

“The Sekunjalo Group considers the Crotty article an insult made with a colonial and apartheid-era mentality,” said Dr Iqbal Survé, Executive Chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Group.

“The suggestion that Independent Media which constitutes less than 2% of Sekunjalo’s investment portfolio, is being asset-stripped is both laughable and bizarre.

It speaks to the moral bankruptcy of the individuals who write such slander. These same individuals either remain silent or they applaud Independent’s competitors when they restructure their businesses for whatever reasons, but when a black-controlled company like Sekunjalo does it they call it ‘asset-stripping’,” Survé said.

“Sekunjalo has in its 20 year history won many awards and has been a stellar example of good corporate governance and sound business practices and values. We take the highly defamatory accusation of asset-stripping very seriously. It is an insult to our ethical business practices and our adherence to good corporate governance which are integral to all our businesses – both in South Africa and globally,” he said.

Survé said that since acquiring Independent Media, Sekunjalo has invested in excess of R200m in the business to assist the company’s evolution from essentially a print media to a multi-platform media company.

Backed by Independent Media’s board of directors and shareholders, Sekunjalo’s investments were directed at funding, amongst others, new technology, IT infrastructure and the upskilling and training of journalists. The move was in line with the company’s strategy to transition to a digitally-driven company while optimising efficiencies throughout the organisation. Sekunjalo intends to invest a further R500 million in the next 3 years, he said.

Survé said he was confident of an award of significant damages for the defamatory statements made by Crotty, which “is fitting for a novel of fiction”.

He said he would like to see such award being used for the further education and training of journalists.
Survé added that since the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013, there has been a deliberate campaign of bullying, lies, distortion and disinformation against himself, Independent Media and Sekunjalo.

“Clearly this campaign is designed to undermine our investment, our business credibility and our transformation agenda, but it also highlights the lengths to which our competitors will go to hold on to the traditionally white-dominated media which benefitted royally from apartheid,” he said.

“It is normal practice for any dynamic company to constantly review its business strategy and add value for its shareholders. All companies and especially media companies the world over do this especially in today’s rapidly changing media environment.

“We have witnessed our competitors restructure their businesses without any comment from our detractors. This whole situation is vindictive and defamatory and we have to draw the line,” said Dr Survé.

Sekunjalo further believes that the legal action that it will institute against TMG as well as the pending legal action against other individuals and media outlets is a sign of its support for small black-owned publishers who have been trampled on by the big media conglomerates and who remain prejudiced by the monopolisation of media in SA.

“We will not be intimidated and therefore we have no hesitation in holding them to account as companies, groups and in their personal capacities in our courts and in the courts abroad. This fight is not only our fight; it is a fight on behalf of small, black-owned publishers who have been bullied by the media monopolies and their surrogates,” said Survé.

“Most importantly this fight is about the control and transformation of the media and ultimately about the economy of this country. The time is now.”

Independent Media to sue TMG for R300m

Published, 15 March 2017 by Adri Senekal de Wet, Business Report. 

Independent Media has instructed its legal team to institute proceedings against Times Media Group (TMG) following its refusal to retract a defamatory article, written by Ann Crotty, which was published in the Financial Mail and Business Live on February 23.

Several untrue and defamatory statements were contained in the article, “Breaking the News”, including allegations, innuendo and questions regarding Independent Media’s current financial standing and its ability to repay loans.

Independent Media has instructed its legal team to institute proceedings against Times Media Group. File photo: Leon Nicholas.

A significant portion of the article claims that Independent Media entered into deals with and sold profitable assets to an entity called Africa Media Group to the detriment of its shareholders.

Independent Media has no knowledge of the existence of this entity. It is clear that the intention of the article was to spread fake news about Independent Media, portray a picture of underhandedness and to create suspicion and discomfort among shareholders, readers and advertisers.

The article also suggests that Independent Media has diminished in stature and would enter into deals without there being a sound business rationale

Independent Media has questioned the integrity and journalistic ethics of the writer and the motive of those publishing entities of TMG, which published the article.

Since the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013, Sekunjalo Group has invested in excess of R200 million in technological and digital advancements as well as skills training and development for journalists as part of its strategy to migrate the Independent Media brand from a largely print media to a multi-platform media group. This investment came with the full approval and support of the existing shareholders who will benefit from the increased value created as a result of Sekunjalo’s additional financial injection into Independent Media since the acquisition.

Commenting on the matter, Chief of Staff of Independent Media, Zenariah Barends said: “I have been at Independent since February 2014. Prior to me joining the company and since, there has been a barrage of attacks against us, including personal attacks on Dr (Iqbal) Survé, by the same groups and individuals. I have to wonder at the reasons for the consistent negative reporting about our company these past three years.

“It is certainly not normal. I would like to put it down to a case of sour grapes, as a number of our detractors were former employees at Independent Media. But the frequency and volume of negativity and malice, suggests something more sinister.”

She said the company would institute the necessary steps to sue the parties mentioned. “We want to get on with our business and build a media house where South Africans who are interested in developing our democracy know they have a trusted source of information.”

ANA, the news agency, last week said it planned to sue TMG for R500m.

Read full article here.

Three finalist INMA nominations for Independent

Published, 14 March 2017 by Staff Reporter , Cape Times. 

The Sekunjalo Group congratulated Independent Media on its nomination as a finalist in three categories at this year’s International News Media Association’s (INMA) Global Media awards – Best Launch of a Brand or Product to Create an Audience Segment in the local/regional category; Best Public Relations or Community Service Campaign; and Best Use of Video in the global/national category.

The awards take place at the conclusion of the 87th annual INMA conference in New York in May.

Since Sekunjalo’s acquisition of Independent Media in 2013, Independent Media has been the only African media company to be nominated for INMA’s Global Media awards for three consecutive years.

The awards received 655 entries from 196 media companies in 36 countries.

Participants include newspaper media, magazine media, digital media, television media and radio media.

Before the acquisition of Independent Media by the Sekunjalo-led consortium in 2013, the company lacked significant infrastructure to compete in the rapidly evolving media environment. Over the past two years, Sekunjalo invested significantly in technology, innovation and skills training and development, integral to the redesign of the company. “These nominations and the ongoing recognition by the international media community are direct consequences of the significant investment that Sekunjalo has made in Independent Media over the past two years”, said Dr Survé.

Independent Media’s Home Property magazine in KwaZulu-Natal was nominated in the category Best Launch of a Brand or Product to create an Audience Segment in the local/regional category.

“This nomination is particularly significant because it emphasises the success of our commercial strategy in KwaZulu-Natal. Amid considerable investment by our competitors to undermine our home and property leadership in the region, we have emerged successful with this great new value-added product for both our clients and readers,” said Dr Survé.

Independent Media’s national campaign to highlight awareness about racism, Racism Stops With Me, was nominated in the category Best Public Relations or Community Service Campaign in the Global/National category.

This campaign was launched in January last year when Dr Survé, as the executive chairman of Independent Media, recognised the need for the media to play a constructive role in highlighting South Africa’s most pressing issues and allowing for healthy debate across all sectors. He called on all stakeholders – readers, commercial partners, advertisers, investors, staff and society in general – to work together to confront the reality of racism. International media houses have expressed keen interest in collaborating with Independent Media on similar campaigns, acknowledging that racism is an international concern.

The national #DontLookAway campaign, which ran during the 16 days of Activism in Support of No Violence Against Women and Children, was nominated in the category Best Use of Video in the global/national category.

This campaign formed part of Independent Media’s Social Change programme to mobilise readers and advertisers to become aware of the scourge of violence against women and children.

“We are unashamedly non-racist, non-sexist and purpose-driven. By publicising the horrific statistics related to women and child abuse, we are playing our part in drawing attention to gender violence in our country,” added Dr Survé.

Competition entries were judged in February by an international panel of 44 executives from 17 countries.

INMA has run an annual competition rewarding excellence in media since 1937. This year’s Global Media awards focused on six activities crucial to success:

* Energising brands.

* Creating new products.

* Growing, engaging and monetising audiences.

* Growing advertising revenue.

* Developing customer insights.

* Instilling innovation.

Read full article here.