South Africa


IOL publicly apologises to Daily Maverick for false reporting

IOL publicly apologises to Daily Maverick for false reporting
Modibe Modiba, a student who got his 15 minutes of local Twitter fame by tweeting nonsensical claims about Daily Maverick. | Unsplash

Almost three years after Independent Online (IOL) published a made-up story claiming that Daily Maverick paid students to sow certain political narratives, IOL has retracted the story and apologised.

Daily Maverick asked me to write and do negative tweets about Dr Iqbal Survé,ran the headline of an article published by the Survé-owned news website IOL in March 2020.

The content of the article, authored by IOL journalist Ayanda Mdluli, consisted of false claims made by a student called Modibe Modiba and uncritically reported by Mdluli. Modiba lied about having received money from Daily Maverick to disseminate a smear campaign targeting Survé, the EFF and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

Now IOL has published an unconditional retraction of the article and an apology — bringing to an end a shameful episode in South African media’s recent history.

Claims made against Daily Maverick ‘unlawful and defamatory’

IOL’s apology states: “Daily News Editor Ayanda Mdluli, and Independent Online editor Lance Witten hereby unconditionally retract the article and apologise to Daily Maverick and its editor Branko Brkic for the harm that was occasioned through the publication of Mr Modiba’s unlawful and defamatory allegations.”

IOL publicly apologises to Daily Maverick for false reporting

(Image: Supplied)

As previously covered by Daily Maverick, Modiba was found by the Johannesburg High Court in August 2022 to have disseminated “patently false and defamatory” allegations.

Judge Keoagile Matojane’s damning judgment stated: “It is hard to conceive of a more damaging accusation [than that which Modiba made against Daily Maverick] that is likely to injure the good esteem and harm the reputation of a news publication.” 

Matojane awarded damages against Modiba — which he has yet to pay — on a punitive scale due to his “obstinate attitude and recalcitrance”.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Allegations were repeated in a number of other IOL articles

Despite the absurdity of Modiba’s claims, and the fact that he produced no evidence to support them, IOL went on to publish a number of other articles treating his allegations as factual.

A subsequent article by Ayanda Mdluli referred to Modiba as a “whistleblower”, rehashed Modiba’s lies, and quoted the little-known Information and Communication Technology Union (Ictu) as criticising both Daily Maverick and the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) over the issue.

Yet another article of the same period, again written by Mdluli, again reiterated Modiba’s falsehoods and once again trotted out Ictu to bash Daily Maverick — on this occasion with the ostensible news hook that Zindzi Mandela had expressed support for Modiba on Twitter.

Although the original article airing Modiba’s lies has now been taken off the IOL website, the stories repeating and amplifying the false claims are still available online.

Modiba now runs his own ‘news outlet’

Modiba was able to exploit the online attention he garnered by lying about Daily Maverick to establish his own “news outlet”, a platform called The Insight Factor, which regularly hosts interviews with Radical Economic Transformation-aligned political figures and has expressed vocal support for beleaguered Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

IOL, meanwhile, continues to serve as a platform for attacks on other media outlets and journalists.

Most recently, millionaire businessman Survé penned a broadside against media “funded by capitalist interests”, and accused Wits journalism professor Anton Harber of “censorship” for Harber’s criticism of Independent Media. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Alley Cat says:

    Revenge is sweet. But is there no sanction against IOL for publishing these lies. One would say their reputation has suffered but given that their reputation id do low, that is not much sanction!

  • virginia crawford says:

    Interesting how loud the screeches are for Dr Ruyter to produce evidence of his claims, but when it suits, outrageous claims are made in that waste of paper, IOL. And yes, they should have been hit by a massive fine.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Daily Maverick is tops,quality reporting in a country run by thieves

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Hardly an apology I read it and on the same page Surve has an opinion piece about a free press. Would be ironic if it wasn’t intended.

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    And Mdluli is the Editor of the Daily News – good heavens! What next?

  • Norman Brauteseth says:

    For many years during the extreme censorship of the Nationalist Government under the emergency regulations, I was the attorney who had to advise the editors of the Natal Mercury, Daily News and Sunday Tribune what they could and could not publish (spending many Saturdays in the newsroom). I developed a huge respect for their independence, integrity, courage and tenacity during that time. What a crushing disappointment it has been to watch those proud newspapers dissolve into trash: to reach the sad conclusion that there is very little to trust except when they publish external material. I subscribed to all of those from when I was a young attorney, only to reach the sad moment when I could not stomach ruining my day (especially my Sunday) by having to sift through the rubbish.

  • Meirion Griffiths says:

    I was IOL printed its publications using softer paper. Those newspapers are killing my arse.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    IOL used to be my staple news site, but I prefer my news to be real, not manufactured outrage covered in lies and xenophobia (Tembisa 10 and the Nigerian doctor who stole the babies). Makes Fox News look like a bastion of liberal thought and free speech!

  • Stephanie Brown says:

    This is why I stopped reading The Sunday Independent many years ago. I assume others did too as it is no longer sold on street corners. Absolutely disgraceful.

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