The Financial Mail’s Ann Crotty was at the centre of legal threats from Independent Newspapers’ chairman Iqbal Survé’s lawyers Webber Wentzel. She unpacked his apparent scheme to hive a profitable division out of the debt-burdened Goliath. Biznews was also the target of such an attack, on three such occasions, having used assertions from Crotty’s piece in a few articles. On the third threat however, Biznews was also accused of disturbing the sanctity of Survé’s relationship with the PIC, making no direct reference to the Crotty article. We’ve kept the articles up, and will do so for as long at the Financial Mail does. And given the lawyer’s letter below, it looks like the Times Media group are willing to go the full nine yards on this one. Instructing with caution that in the spirit of “stones” and “glass houses”, Survé’s lawyers should be mindful of their own client’s conduct and publications. A delicious sting in the tail. – Stuart Lowman
From Werksman Attorneys
SEKUNJALO INVESTMENT HOLDINGS PROPRIETARY LIMITED, AFRICA NEWS AGENCY, DOCTOR IQBAL SURVE AND INDEPENDENT MEDIA PROPRIETARY LIMITED (collectively “your clients”) / TIMES MEDIA GROUP PROPRIETARY LIMITED, ANN CROTTY, FINANCIAL MAIL, ROB ROSE AND RAY HARTLEY (collectively “our clients”)
1. We refer to your letters (“your letters”) addressed to our clients dated 8 March 2017.
2. We do not intend to deal herein fully with the various allegations contained in your letters. Our failure to do so should not be construed as an admission by our clients of the correctness thereof, or as a waiver of our clients’ rights to deal with such allegations in due course and in the appropriate fora, which rights are fully reserved.
3. Our clients dispute that the article written by Ann Crotty and published in the Financial Mail and BusinessLIVE entitled “Breaking the News: Is Iqbal Stripping Independence Assets?” dated 23 February 2017 (“the article”) –
3.1 was written with any malice or, without conceding that the article was defamatory, was written with the intention of defaming any of your clients;
3.2 is defamatory;
3.3 contains untrue statements, allegations and/or innuendo;
3.4 is motivated by an intention to impair and/or damage your clients’ reputation (without conceding that your clients’ reputation is capable of being impaired or damaged);
3.5 caused your clients to sustain any harm or damage.
4. Our clients do not, in the circumstances, intend acceding to your clients’ demands as detailed in your letters.
5. Should your clients resolve to institute legal proceedings “to the full extent permitted by law”, we are authorised to accept service of any such legal process on behalf of our clients at the following address:
155-5 th Street
6. Finally, we have been instructed to caution you, in the spirit of “stones” and “glass houses” to be mindful of your clients’ own conduct and publications. As your clients will be plainly aware from the Press Code –
“The press shall not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional considerations to influence or slant reporting. Conflicts of interest must be avoided, as well as arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the press’s independence and professionalism.”.
7. The content of –
7.1 Dr Surve’s WhatsApp communication; and
7.2 Independent Media’s Joseph Booysen’s various emails seeking “comment” from Times Media’s Andrew Bonamour in relation to issues which so plainly have no foundation, are not only transparently in breach of the Code as aforesaid but indeed, if published, will constitute defamatory statements of and concerning our clients. We have been instructed to consider such conduct and take such steps as may be required.
8 Our clients’ rights remain, in the interim, fully reserved.