Ex Times journalist spill the beans on newspaper owner Paul Loffler



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE: Former Times of Swaziland investigative journalist Eugene Dube has disclosed how the owner of the newspaper Paul Loffler uses his publication to destroy businesses owned by black people in the country thus promoting white monopoly capitalism.

Firstly, Dube alleged that Loffler, a white businessman instructed his journalists to make sure they always publish stories that label articles published by the Swazi Observer and other emerging publications in the country as lies so that his media company can continue to dominate and further control the flow of information in the country. The Swazi Observer is a subsidiary of Tibiyo TakaNgwane, an investment company owned by the King in Trust for the Swazi Nation. “This was a directive of Loffler and editors would make follow ups on big stories that appeared in the Swazi Observer or any publication to discredit them” he said. Dube said the Swazi Observer was fast becoming better than the Times in terms of stories but Loffler was trying very hard to mitigate the situation by embarking on his strategy to discredit their stories.

On the issue of the newspaper misquoting sources to cash millions from government and companies in the private sector, Dube said “that’s an old strategy used by Loffler” “This is done in two ways. Firstly, if the company did not advertise with the Times, the journalists would be instructed to focus only on negative stories about that entity. Then, the company would then be forced to publish “Press Statements” at E17 000.00 per page for one day to try and protect their brand. Furthermore, when a company sent an invitation requesting coverage for an event, the news department were told to first confirm with the advertising department if that entity is in good terms with the newspaper in terms of advertising and if not, the event would be ignored or be portrayed in bad light. Sometimes the newspaper would twist facts about government stories on sensitive matters to force the office of the Prime Minister to publish a press statement at a fee. At the end, Loffler benefit through sales and the press statements. It is very sad that government seem not to understand that the country cannot develop with one newspaper bullying the country and destroying black owned businesses. ” he said.

Dube said while working for the newspaper, he noticed that negative articles particularly of corrupt nature that involve white businesspeople were blocked or if published, “those stories would be given less prominence so that readers cannot easily identify them” Paul Loffler took the fast lane when asked to respond to our questions but Times Sunday investigative journalist Welcome Dlamini disputed the allegations saying they always make sure they publish accurate stories. “This is so wrong Nkhosi, I work for a major newspaper and there is no such strategy and I wonder where you get what you are saying. It’s the reporters who write the stories and there has never been a point where we have been told by management to misquote a source. On the contrary, we have a very efficient performance monitoring system that we use to minimize retractions and its currently above 98%” he said On the other hand, journalist Eugene Dube said he was talking through experience as he worked for the Times. He said one day Nathie Gule, the then editor of the Times came carrying the Swazi Observer and instructed a journalist to discredit a story inside the paper “Gule weta aphetse iObserver wafike watsi aseniphikise nastory nasi(Gule came with the Swazi Observer and instructed a journalist to deliberately discredit their story” he said.

When asked how this was done, Dube said the journalists would sometimes call the implicated person and ask him to deny what the Observer wrote even if the story was true. The seasoned journalist said personally, he was against that as he believes in professional journalism in the public interest. On another note Dube blasted the Times over their new strategy of publishing stories about politicians and other public figures without revealing their names. He said this was not fair to the consumers who fork out their money hoping to get a story only to find that the story had no names. The seasoned investigative journalist made an example about a story of a “Politician in a sex scandal with a ben 10” which he said lacked the basics of journalism being five(5) Ws and an “H”. Dube said as usual, it was highly possible that the politician will never be known despite that the Times claimed to have pictures and the Ben 10 who intended to expose the politician was suppose to be on record. “It’s almost three months now, the politician and Ben 10 are not known, with this story, the Times opened a wide range of speculation” he said But Thobeka Manyathela, the editor of the Swazi News and author of the story said she would eventually publish the names of the implicated individuals in the story. As editors of the Times are always evasive when asked to comment, this publication first called and pretended to be a member of the public who was interested in the story.

The editor was first open and mentioned that she would publish the names adding that at the moment she was dealing with death threats that allegedly came with the story “I know I’m owing you guys the names and will definitely publish the story. I was busy monitoring the death threats but they better now so the story would come out.” said the female editor who is currently Paul Loffler’s favorite employee. After the long conversation that was recorded, editor Manyathela sounded skeptical with the conversation after noticing that the questions were journalistic. “Ngikhuluma nabani ngoba encenye uwaka Observer nje?(Whom I’m speaking to because maybe you working for the Observer)” she asked and after this journalist formally introduced himself she continued. “Oh ok Zweli, we will publish the names” she said while ending the conversation. But Eugene Dube said the issue of death threats was just a hide-up by the editor, he wondered why the names were not published in the first place if there was sufficient evidence and the “Ben 10” gave an interview. Dube said in journalism, death threats were normal. “We can’t stop disseminating information to the public because of threats, this is our job that we joined knowing fully the challenges” Dube said.