• Both the JSE and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) were bullied by other media, titles across the Independent Newspapers stable simultaneously reported on their front pages on Friday morning.
  • The articles alleged the institutions folded under "Stratcom" tactics; an accompanying opinion piece referred to "Gestapo-type tactics, intimidation of the company and regulators".
  • The JSE declined to allow Sagarmatha, which was to house Independent Media, to list, citing improper documentation. The PIC did not invest in it after the listing failed. 

Both the JSE and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) succumbed to pressure from its competitors, Independent Media said on Friday, in a set of articles published across its major titles.

It blamed those competitors for the failure by Sagarmatha Technology to list on the JSE and attract PIC funding.

Sagarmatha had told investors it planned to sell its customers' genetic information, among other unusual lines of business.

The front page articles, and an accompanying opinion piece, variously described the approach as reminiscent to Stratcom, the apartheid-era disinformation campaign, and to the tactics of the Gestapo, the notorious secret police of Nazi Germany.

"The patterns that are emerging on the attacks on Independent Media and the Sekunjalo Group and myself reeks of Stratcom. It has all the hallmarks of Stratcom and dirty tricks," Iqbal Surve, the head of Independent and Sagarmatha, is quoted as saying in the article.

In an opinion piece in the Business Report section of the newspaper, editor Adri Senekal de Wet says Surve had asked the group "that we exercise restraint and that we do not respond to clear attempts to destabilise the group."

"However, the dirty tricks campaign has all the hallmarks and patterns of StratCom," she writes.

The pieces name various editors and publications, but point most directly to Independent's major competitor in the English daily newspaper market. 

"Independent Media has evidence that senior executives of its competitor, Tiso Blackstar, had plotted to scupper the listing of Sagarmatha Technologies on the JSE," one the articles reads.

It then points to a column published by a Tiso Blackstar newspaper.

Tiso Blackstar this week said it would normally take claims against it by Independent Newspapers to the Press Ombud but could not do so because Independent no longer subjected itself to the Ombud process.

In a statement issued late on Friday morning the SA Naitonal Editors' Forum (Sanef) said it was "not only defamatory, but disgusting" journalists investigating private-sector irregularities had been equated to Stratcom.

"The orchestrated way in which all the [Independent] group’s newspapers published this defamatory piece today shows something else at play, which purpose cannot be to serve the public," the body said.

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