PEN Afrikaans, an association of authors, journalists and publishers, notes with concern the Independent Media Group’s labelling of prominent journalists as “Stratcom agents” in an article published on the front page of several of their newspapers on Friday, 20 April. This follows those journalists’ investigation of and reporting on the financial position of Sagarmatha Technologies.
In the widely circulated article, investigative journalism exposing financial irregularities is slanted by the Independent Media Group as a concerted effort to influence critical stakeholders to stop the company’s listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Accusing journalists of “plotting”, driving a “dirty tricks campaign” and comparing them to the apartheid state’s Stratcom operation is not only scathing, but irresponsible, as it remains largely unsubstantiated.
PEN Afrikaans stands in solidarity with the South African National Editors’ Forum and supports its resolve to engage with the Independent Media Group on its unfair treatment of journalists, and to bring such treatment to the attention of the Public Investment Corporation board.
It is utterly ironic, particularly in the lead-up to the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, that a media company should need reminding that investigative journalists should be celebrated, not vilified.
PEN Afrikaans supports press freedom and acknowledges the watchdog role of the media as a vital part of a healthy democracy.