The president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, was back in the news last Friday… this time for supporting a move by the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) to exclude White journalists from covering an off-the-record briefing by Jacob Zuma.
The blogosphere has erupted with all sorts of positions on this matter, here are a few…
From Guy Berger
The Forum of Black Journalists is welcome to choose whoever it likes to attend its meetings. Black, white or blue. It’s a free country.
But no journalists, of whatever hue, should be in the business of organising off-the-record briefings with political leaders.
Wasn’t anything learnt from the infamous 2003 Bulelani Ngcuka briefing that caused enormous damage to the image of journalists as politically independent players beyond manipulation? And that was an occasion not even initiated by the media.
And anyway, why would any journalist act to encourage secret information flows as a first-choice engagement with a source? Especially in regard to a public politician who may be the next South African president.
Shame also goes to Jacob Zuma for speaking to the FBJ on confidential terms of engagement; he could have as easily advised that he had nothing to hide, and that anyone present was free to report his remarks.
Just what was the point of the FBJ tying the hands of the journalists who attended? A bad bid to try to “sex-up” the character of the event?
My issue is that I think the white journalists that were expelled showed a brilliant example to us whites as to how to deal with these “forums”. A lot of people have spoken out about these forums but nothing to date has been done about them, until now. Good on the journalist that were expelled and even better on the black journalist that left the meeting with them. There really should be no place for this type of organization in this country. Let’s call a spade a spade what happened there was nothing less than racism in action!
When you hear of these things, these corruptions of democracy one is left to ask who is running this country? When there are so many clever, able, educated and passionate young black leaders, why is it that the dof, cruel and incompetent have wrestled power away from the minds of rationalism in the ANC.
A part of me wants to blame Mbeki for his paranoia and centralisation, and when I think about it deeply this truly seems the greatest cause.
But which Irvin Khoza, the man in charge of running soccer in this country, using the word kaffir without shame, we have definitely entered a dark day in the racial politics of our country; where men and women are excluded from an address because of the colour of their skin, and a leader of the country’s largest sports program can chide a black man with the word kaffir.
The editor's forum said in their statement that such exclusion has no place in South Africa today and certainly not in a forum that represents journalists.
Sanef said it 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.
“Our democracy came after a hard-fought struggle at several levels including the media and every effort should be made to protect it,” Sanef stated.
Yesterday newsrooms across the country received the invite from FBJ stating that black journalists are invited to an inaugural luncheon discussion (imbizo) with the ANC president.
The invite further stated it was important to note that all the imbizo’s are “strictly closed discussions not for publication”. But they offer an opportunity for black journalists “to engage on a variety of burning issues with the guests”.
The media was instrumental is getting this country to where it is today. There were white journalists who risked their lives and even paid the ultimate price to give this country its democracy. What were these black journalists discussing, closeted together with Zuma, that they didn’t want white journalists to hear???
“Racists are the last people who should be judging the morality of others. The conduct of these journalists was reprehensible and, in my opinion, they have waived the right to report on anything political. In order to assist those who did not arrange the function or its racist composition, I would merely ask whether they walked out once they had learned of its racist nature.
By accepting that there is a place for racism in South Africa you are, by your disgusting conduct, confirming that whites-only schools, Afrikaans-only clubs and any other exclusivity is appropriate. Far worse, your conduct itself is all the proof that separatists need for a new whites-only state.”
Zuma’s attendance is slightly more complex. On the face of it, his presence endorses racial exclusivity.
But Zuma has been willing to talk to journalists of all races — and has even turned down interview request by certain black journalists.
Zuma has publicly expressed an open reconciliatory and non-racist attitude to social issues and he should be taken at face value on this.
He went so far as to grant an interview to a highly critical “white” reporter from the BBC recently in which he was subjected to the harshest possible questioning.
What is totally unacceptable is that a professional working journalist be prevented from executing their craft because of their race.
My take on this is slightly different. Yes, the FBJ is indeed racist and bad. But its members are also exercising an important freedom that is, and should be, constitutionally protected: the freedom to associate. I’m one of those people who thinks that freedom of association (like freedom of speech) is sufficiently important that it should be protected even when it is used by bad people to promote bad ideas. I even think that explicit hate groups should be legally protected, provided they don’t engage in acts of violence.
It seems racism is poking it's ugly head up again in the media world of South Africa… this time, however, it's in reverse. Let's hope we can resolve this issue or at least learn from it in future.