Magazine article New African

South Africa: Sorry, No White Journalists Allowed; Were Racial Sensibilities Responsible for Black Journalists Barring White Journalists from the Re-Launch Ceremony of Their Association?, Asks Simphiwe Sesanti, Reporting from Johannesburg

Magazine article New African

South Africa: Sorry, No White Journalists Allowed; Were Racial Sensibilities Responsible for Black Journalists Barring White Journalists from the Re-Launch Ceremony of Their Association?, Asks Simphiwe Sesanti, Reporting from Johannesburg

Article excerpt

The notion that black journalists in South Africa can only organise, assemble and associate when their white counterparts are present, smacks of "paternalistic arrogance" and undermines their ability to determine their redress options on the basis of the independence of thought and action.

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This is the view of the re-launched Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) presented by its chairperson, Abbey Makoe, at a public forum hosted by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on 5 March.

The public hearing followed a complaint by Katy Katopodis, editor of Radio 702 and 94.7, reacting to the FBJ's decision to bar white journalists from its re-launch ceremony at which Jacob Zuma, president of the ruling ANC, was the guest speaker.

In a press statement issued by the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF), the organisation "strongly deplor(ed) the decision by the Forum of Black Journalists to exclude journalists who are not members of the organisation ... Such exclusion has no place in South Africa today and certainly not in a forum that represents journalists. SANEF respects the FBJ's right to organise and associate as it sees fit provided this does not undermine the open society and democratic values of our constitution and country".

In defending its decision to bar white journalists from the ceremony, Makoe insists that to "have had the said imbizo [gathering] intruded upon was not only disruptive on the part of those who thereafter rushed to the SAHRC to cry racism, but also an act of disrespect to [the FBJ's] right to organise, assemble and to associate with a guest of their choice". This view was supported by the former SANEF chairperson, and editor-in-chief of the City Press newspaper, Mathatha Tsedu, who pointed out that the white journalists' act of entering a place with an invitation-only-sign, was "sheer arrogance".

According to Tsedu: "The steering committee of the FBJ issued invitations to an invitation-only function. Those not invited, in terms of Western culture, had no right to go there. In terms of this [same] white culture, if you are not invited you do not pitch up. But they did not only pitch up, they arrived ready to report on a function that was not for reporting, and, when they were told they could not come in, they raised a stink. …

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