You be the judge if this is a commitment to ethical journalism

31 May 2017 - 08:31 By Times Editorial
Image: Supplied

The allegations by the University of Cape Town's vice-chancellor Max Price against Independent Newspapers chairman Iqbal Survé cannot be easily brushed aside.

Price, as we reported yesterday, told scholar, author and The Times columnist Jonathan Jansen in an interview for his new book As By Fire that he believed Survé had been a "direct agent" in the battle which saw the university crippled by the #RhodesMustFall campaign in 2015.

Survé has angrily dismissed the allegations but the fact that Price has seen fit to air his suspicions - and indications of his evidence - is significant.

Price's comments about the tone of Survé's Cape Times coverage are not at odds with that of other observers at the time. Significantly, the editor of the Cape Times, who would have been expected to have vigorously defended his paper's independence in the face of allegations of interference by its proprietor, chose instead to refer our reporter to Survé.

Survé's response was not only to attack Price and Jansen but to attack our publishers. He claimed that Independent Media subscribes to the "highest code of conduct and ethical journalism".

In fact, last year Independent withdrew from the Press Council, the independent co-regulatory system that handles the public's complaints about its members' journalism and which oversees the industry's code of ethics. In this, Independent joins the Gupta-funded The New Age.

Instead Independent has appointed a staff member, one of its former editors, as an internal ombudsman and requires complainants to file a waiver that they will not pursue litigation after their complaint. It also requires some complainants to pay a R5000 deposit on making a complaint.

You can be the judge about whether this instils confidence in what Survé calls a commitment to ethical journalism.