SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande has written to Media24, the owners of City Press, objecting to the paper's coverage of the ANC, calling for the editor to be fired and hinting at a possible boycott. In a front-page editorial comment, the paper rejects his complaint.

The front-page editorial comment in City Press (3 February 2008) reads:

On Page 4 we publish an open letter from Blade Nzimande, the general secretary of the SACP and member of the ANC national executive committee.

The letter makes a number of accusations against this newspaper and its editorial leadership, alleging we are out to divide the ANC.

The statement suggests to the owners of this newspaper, Media24, that the editors be fired. If this is not done, a veiled threat is added that a possible boycott of City Press could be effected.

The letter was apparently triggered by last week's lead story on how an angry Zuma had complained about members of his NEC who have been allegedly positioning themselves to lead the ANC, should he be convicted. Zuma later apologised for his anger.

We view the allegations being made as well as the threats very seriously. City Press tries hard to be impartial and to report as accurately as is humanly possible. This applies to the ANC as well as any other party.

We do so because our mission is to serve the public good and not individual or organisational interests. In doing this, we sometimes get stories wrong despite our best efforts and codes of ethics. When that happens, readers are able to raise the issue with us and we admit to our errors and apologise.

The aggrieved also have the option to go to the Press Council of South Africa for redress.

Nzimande has chosen to ignore both, writing instead to the owners to intimidate them. It is a tactic that must fail.

This country fought huge battles for our rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and a free media.

This newspaper took a decision four years ago this week to become a serious read for people who are serious about their information needs.

At that time, following the slump in circulation that came with the furore over the publication by this newspaper of the non-story about Bulelani Ngcuka being a spy for the apartheid regime, circulation was in free fall. We were selling close to 139 000 copies each week.

Last week we sold 198 000. This is as a result of you, our readers, feeling that we are serving your news and information needs. We respect you and would never try to feed you propaganda.

Happenings within the ANC are of interest to everyone because it is the organisation that rules the country.

The accusation that we could be playing a divisive role by pointing at divisions is spurious. The ANC does not need a divider. It is divided. The irony in Nzimande's attack is that the main accusation against Mbeki by people like him was that Mbeki was intolerant of opposing views.

Now, if this newspaper does not want to suffer the fate of a boycott by the almighty alliance structures, the editors should kowtow to the new regime at the helm of the ANC, or the owners must fire them.

When the apartheid regime arrested and tortured journalists for daring to tell it as the regime did not want it told, we stood firm and fought back.

We are not going to bow to the new gods. We stand for the right to do our work ethically and professionally.

And if anyone, Nzimande included, feels we are failing, there are mechanisms set up by the industry to address this.

We remain committed to our goal of being an informative and interesting read covering our country and our continent without fear or favour, threats or no threats.

As for last week's story: we stand by every word. – Editor