The blocking of Sagarmatha Technologies from listing on the JSE as a result of nefarious reporting tactics by the usual suspects of anti-transformation in the South African media landscape is indicative of how white owned entities operating in this space are still committed to maintaining the status quo where black operators are continuously side lined. 

In 2018, the rise of “agenda setting” unethical journalism is on the rise as white owned media houses continue to be platforms that service an agenda that aims to keep black players at the margins of lucrative ventures in a wide range of industries. 

Looking at the media wars that have been waged against Sagarmatha Technologies and Independent Media by Tiso Blackstar and the Daily Maverick, it is shocking to see how senior journalists have abused their positions to fight a business battle that aims to frustrate their competitor’s attempt to list on the JSE. 

This was a blatant smear campaign aimed at keeping black progress at bay. Organisation’s such as the Black Business Council and others had made a commitment to purchasing millions of shares which would have been sufficient to cover the initial R3 billion required to be raised before the listing. 

The listing of the company would have created the biggest media house in Africa, which would have opened the doors for many marginalised players in the industry to be part of a game changing platform that would have undoubtedly put its competitors out of business. 

The Multi Sided Platform would have put the companies in the same bracket as the likes of Amazon, Google, Tencent and Uber as a digital power house on the African continent. 

Journalists using their positions to fight battles for their handlers is nothing new in the South African Media landscape. These same media companies that aim to stifle black progress are also continuous recipients of hundreds of millions of Rands worth of government ad spend, year in and year out yet there is still a concerted effort and an agenda to demonize people of colour and stifle black voices in the industry. 

As the FJT we reiterate that government needs to seriously rethink how it allocates its advertising spend in the media. There needs to be a seismic shift where 80% of government ad spend is allocated to black owned media houses. This is in tune with our demographics and we should resolve to be unapologetic about it as black operators in this space. 

We would like to urge Independent Media to continue the fight of transforming the media industry in SA and not give up. The fact that white journalists in SA cannot comprehend that a black owned media company could be the largest in SA, and perhaps even be of greater value than most companies already listed on the JSE smacks of white privilege and arrogance that has come to dominate most of our media narratives in the country. 

The very same media houses that preach about Independent Media’s lack of profitability have themselves engaged in dodgy labour practices where pay disparities are still determined over racial lines. Most of the titles in these companies do not generate a profit and have engaged in widespread retrenchments yet they are quick to point fingers at other black owned players going through the same challenges. Most of their newsrooms continue to be racist to the core and are still occupied by dinosaurs who yearn “for the good old days”. 

In these white owned media companies, black journalists are told that they are only there because of Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment and are not there based on merit. The same black journalists who produce leads on a daily and weekly basis are still paid considerably less than their white counterparts. 

Such is the pathetic state of journalism in SA. Racial discrimination continues to be reality in the so-called media wars of South Africa. 

Independent must not give up the fight. Aluta continua!  

Ayanda Mdluli is a media practitioner for the African Times and the National Spokesperson for the Forum of Journalists for Transformation.

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