Cape Town, 4 February 2021 – Internal ‘readers representatives’ have been an industry standard across the world for decades and continuing the good work of this office at South Africa’s largest print publisher, is respected journalist and editor, Yogas Nair, who will now take up the post of Internal Press Ombudsman at Independent Media.
Independent Media’s internal press ombudsman office was launched in 2016, and headed up by former editor, Jovial Rantao. The office, as the public’s representative, provides readers with an objective conduit through which to register any concerns they may have over a particular story, or request for it to be investigated.
Over the past two years, Nair has worked closely with the internal ombudsman’s office as the group public advocate responsible for mediation between editors and complainants. Prior to taking up this new role, she held the joint function of editor and as public advocate. Of her appointment she says: “I am honoured to assume the role of the Independent Group’s Ombudsman to look into complaints or observations from readers about substantive editorial issues and publish their findings.
“I believe that to make self-regulation credible, the media must step up and commit themselves to systems of good governance, transparency and a greater willingness to admit their mistakes. For self-regulation to command public trust, newspapers must be held accountable to their own editorial and ethical standards and to provide readers with an independent assessment of their observations.
“More than just showing that the press can take a punch, if required, and not just deliver one, the Ombudsman is the single most effective check on press transparency and accountability and can cement readers to their newspaper and enhance the credibility of the news organisations.”
Of the changing media landscape that has promoted an era of fast news, and sadly, fake news, Nair commented: “In the digital era, building trust with the audience is a priority and I look forward to maintaining honesty in journalism and keeping democracy alive and vibrant.”
Nair joined Independent Media in 2001 as a freelance reporter at the Post. She worked on this basis for a few years until she was appointed senior reporter at the title. In 2012, Nair joined the Daily News as a senior reporter before being appointed its news editor in 2013. In 2014, shortly after Dr Survé led the consortium that purchased Independent Media, Survé appointed Nair as editor of the Post – it’s first female editor in 60 years. Proving her capability in this role, in 2016, Nair became the second female editor of the 168-year-old Mercury newspaper. A few months later, while still editor of the Mercury, she was appointed Kwa-Zulu Natal Regional Executive Editor, both positions she held until February 2020 when she was appointed Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the Independent Media group.
Reflecting on her time at the organisation, Nair observed: “I have had an incredible journey at Independent Media. I am truly grateful to Independent Media’s executive chairman, Dr Survé, for recognising my abilities. My
experiences in this industry have given me, I believe, the requisite skills to now provide readers with an objective assessment of any of their queries, and I hope, to hold my colleagues accountable to upholding the standards that are expected of them in today’s omnipresent media world.”
New Panel and Press Council Members Appointed
Adding gravitas to Nair’s office, are a number of respected industry individuals who make up the adjudication panel, appeals panel and press council. They are:
The Adjudication Panel:
Moleboheng Mosia – a legal assistant at Independent Media
Zamambo Mkhize – former head of SABC KZN
Yogin Devan – former journalist now communications specialist.
The Appeals Panel:
Brijlall Ramguthee – former editor now retired
Val Bojé – former editor now retired
Moegsien Williams – former journalist and editor-in-chief and now retired.
Zenariah Barends – head of publications at Community Chest and TRC – Head of Investigative Unit Western Cape.
Taweni Gondwe Xaba – former Oprah Magazine editor now communications specialist at the Durban Chamber of Commerce
Japhet Ncube – former editor of The Star
Yogin Devan – as aforementioned.
Executive Chairman of Independent Media, Dr Iqbal Survé said: “Integrity, impartiality and the proven ability to critically analyse subject matter are important requirements for this post, all of which Yogas has in abundance. We are delighted that our internal procedures will be guided by someone of Yogas’ calibre who will enforce excellent journalistic standards whilst giving due consideration to the right to a free press.
“We are equally pleased that a seasoned and illustrious group of professionals have agreed to assist and provide expertise to the various panels and the Press Council, further adding to the independence of the proceedings and ensuring fair play.”
While in other parts of the world, cost-cutting measures on a profit-challenged industry is seeing some of the biggest publishers close their ombudsman facility, Independent Media considers the role to be vital in order to maintain media values and principles, and to protect the rights of the public.
Nair and her office will handle all external complaints and will adjudicate each on its own merits. She assumes the role with immediate effect.