Black First, Land First (BLF) spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp took to Twitter to voice his disapproval of an article in which The Citizen had looked at his tweets alleging that “white media” companies had benefited more from the state than the now-defunct Gupta-owned newspaper The New Age.
Maasdorp said that The Citizen “must really learn to read” in a public tweet and also sent us a private message expanding on his views.
In the private message, he began by explaining that efforts to contact him for comment in previous articles had failed due to a change in phone number.
The source of his criticism of our comprehension skills appears to come from a line saying, “Maasdorp also used the term ‘invested,’ which some may find misleading as the tweets refer not to money GCIS invested in companies as such but to advertising spending.”
Maasdorp claims he only mentioned “investment” in a tweet about PIC investment on “white monopoly media” and did not intend to imply that the GCIS money spent on advertising in media publications publications was actually “investment.”
The PIC tweet was left out of the earlier article in The Citizen.
However, a tweet that he left out of his own tweet slamming our work does indeed say “@GCISMedia has spent MORE money, has INVESTED more into @Naspers, Tiso Blackstar and @IndyMediaSA yet the Guptas are on trial for ‘state capture’.”
He did therefore imply that it was not advertising spend but investment that GCIS gave the companies, which was why we used the word as well.
In other tweets, Maasdorp, however, uses the term “spend” with reference to GCIS.
While the tweets themselves can no longer be found, due to Maasdorp being suspended from Twitter on Wednesday, the exact text of the tweets can still be found in this original article. Some, but not all of the tweets, have been screen-shotted and posted by Maasdorp on his new Twitter account.
“Note, the investment I refer to, is PIC investment on White Monopoly Media, and none received by Guptas. Then I talk about advertising Spend by GCIS for the years I indicate and you can see the trend benefits WMC. Further, all info is available on PIC, aforementioned companies and government communication,” Maasdorp said in his private message to us.
“Finally, if you look at strategic objectives of communication 2010 you’d see a change toward transformation, and you would then see an implemented action of taking away 45% of WMC income from advertising budget, a spend of 30% in black communities advertising, and a split of 15% of the budget to Independent Media and TNA which were seen as emerging black business.”
What he is arguing here is unclear, as the stats show that the amount of money spent in The New Age and Independent Media increased over this period, and The Citizen article does not argue that it didn’t.
This does, however, clarify that Maasdorp does not believe Independent Media should be lumped with “white media”, along with Naspers and Tiso Blackstar, as our original article erroneously indicated.
“Please do basic research before writing articles to maintain WMC capture of state, which then includes media specifically,” Maasdorp said, singling out the author of both the previous articles and this one.
Maasdorp has, however, not in any way refuted the claim in the article that while GCIS may indeed have spent more money on advertising in Naspers, Avusa Media (now Tiso Blackstar) and Independent Media than on The New Age, they still spent a disproportionate amount on The New Age relative to its circulation figures.
The initial article notes that, “While Maasdorp sees these figures as a vindication of his argument that the government has supported ‘white media’ more than the Guptas, The New Age was never externally audited and thus their reach can’t be known for sure. It’s possible that GCIS was spending a disproportionate amount on The New Age relative to its reach.”
In a later article, about Maasdorp’s Twitter suspension on Wednesday and subsequent creation of a new account, an article on BusinessTech that does give circulation figures for The New Age suggests the amount spent by the government on the newspaper was very “skewed” relative to its readership figures.
Maasdorp also offered nothing by way of refutation of articles that suggested massive spending on The New Age in the Free State or allegations that the GCIS paid R260 million to Gupta-owned media companies, including The New Age, between 2011 and 2018.