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Tue Sep 02 11:19:36 SAST 2014

New Age denies pressuring DA on parliamentary questions

Sapa | 30 January, 2013 17:12
Atul Gupta at his mansion in Saxonwold, Johannesburg. File photo.
Image by: KEVIN SUTHERLAND

A meeting between DA MP and federal chairman Wilmot James and The New Age (TNA) editors was a constructive, broad-ranging discussion on issues of media, politics and their impact on society, the newspaper said on Wednesday.

TNA chief executive Nazeem Howa was responding to allegations by DA leader Helen Zille that he, along with TNA editor Moegsien Willams and managing editor Atul Gupta, had tried to put pressure on James to "back off" from asking parliamentary questions on public funding of the publication.

"It was a much more constructive meeting than reported, and at which, as a consequence, Professor James invited Moegsien to address the DA caucus next month," said Howa.

He said they had pointed out that the DA had a "narrow focus" in the questions it was asking and that the party should include all newspapers in its probe.

"Professor James, in fact, conceded this point and undertook to raise it within the party structures," said Howa.

Howa said the possible sale of the Independent Newspaper group did come up for discussion as part of a discussion on the "changing media landscape" and the impact on the 2014 election campaign.

Earlier on Wednesday, Zille accused the party of adopting a heavy-handed approach during the meeting with James at his home, at the end of last year.

"The three adopted a heavy-handed approach, and said the DA should be aware of the fact that the Independent Group would soon be bought by a well-known ANC sympathiser and that this would be very bad for the DA," Zille told reporters at Parliament.

Zille and TNA executives have been involved in a public spat, after she refused to speak at one of their business breakfasts, saying it was being funded by public money. The newspaper hit back, saying she had been aware of this fact when she attended one of their breakfasts in the past.

Asked about the meeting, James told Sapa he did in fact agree that the DA should look at the public funding of all newspapers.

James backed Zille on the tone of the meeting.

"It was a pressure discussion, it was not an innocent discussion... we were asking questions in Parliament and they were very heated in their approach," James said.

James said the TNA executives had made it clear that the DA's questions were "harmful for business".

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Tue Sep 02 11:19:36 SAST 2014 ::