S Africa's The New Age aborts launch after staff quit

Managing editor Gary Naidoo: "This was something we never anticipated"

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The launch of a new South African paper has been put on hold after five of its editors resigned at the last minute.

The senior staff at The New Age, which promises "more positive" news, have not given their reasons for standing down.

BBC southern Africa correspondent Karen Allen said disagreement over editorial content and the way the newspaper was being resourced may be behind the move.

The paper's backers have close links to the governing African National Congress (ANC) and President Jacob Zuma.

"We were ready to go to print today [Wednesday]. We withheld that publication with respect for those editorial staff that have stayed on," managing editor Gary Naidoo told independent news station Talk Radio 702.

"We have been prepared and we have been working throughout the weekend. We have been working right up to Monday. We did not anticipate this."

He estimated that the newspaper would be launched in "maybe a week, two weeks".

The five senior employees who gave notice on Tuesday include the editor-in-chief, deputy editor and news editor.

The newspaper's website is already advertising their vacant posts.

In a joint statement, the five said: "We have taken the decision that it would be neither proper nor professionally acceptable for us to speak publicly about the reasons for our decision."

Protests

The New Age is owned by the Gupta Group, wealthy Indian immigrants, who say it will highlight the achievements of the ANC-led government.

Protesters in silent march in Johannesburg 19 October 2010 The cancelled launch came a day after street protests against controversial media laws

The newspaper's aborted launch comes a day after hundreds of protesters demonstrated against tough new media laws being considered in parliament.

The new measures would severely restrict journalists' access to information. It would include a "protection of information" bill and a new media tribunal to punish journalists who step out of line.

The ANC said new legislation was needed to make journalists legally accountable for inaccurate reporting.

But critics have compared the proposed tribunal to methods used to control journalists during the apartheid era.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says a number of papers have tried to break into the South African market in recent years.

There have been two successful launches in the last decade - The Times and The Daily Sun, she says.

But The Weekender and two Nigerian ventures, ThisDay and Nova, all folded within three years.

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