Black journalists have a right to form an organisation of their own, but they don't have the right to exclude their white colleagues from a major briefing with ANC President Jacob Zuma.  That's the core of Radio 702's objection to the Forum of Black Journalists' (FBJ) lunch with Zuma. The station has taken a leading role in criticising the FBJ.  Read the letter that editor Katy Katopodis sent to the Human Right Commission and the statement by  Group Head of News Yusuf Abramjee.

The letter of complaint by Katy Katopodis, Radio 702 and HIghveld Editor, addressed to Jody Kollapen of the Human Rights Commission: 

Dear Jody,                                                                                                             

 I would like to lay a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission following a refusal by the Forum for Black Journalists to allow white journalists to attend a lunch with ANC President Jacob Zuma.

Following several queries about whether a senior reporter in the Talk Radio 702 Newsroom – who’s been covering Mr Zuma for several years – was allowed to attend – it became evident that he could not go, simply because he is white.

In a democratic South Africa, where racial prejudice is not tolerated, I find this totally unacceptable.

I believe that this goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

While I have absolutely no objection to the existence of such an organisation – the organisers appear to have chosen this high profile event to make a political statement on racial grounds

Surely this forum was founded on the premise of promotion and not exclusion?

Surely South Africa is beyond such blatant displays of racism?

I lay this complaint in my capacity as Editor of Talk Radio 702 and 94.7 Highveld Stereo.

I trust that you will engage the organisers of this function and deal with the matter as best you see fit.
 

Regards,

Katy Katopodis
 

A statement by Primedia's Group Head of News and Talk, Yusuf Abramjee, read out at the briefing:

There is no problem with the existence of the Forum for Black Journalists, we understand certain issues affecting black journalists might need to be debated in such a forum.  We understand how people may feel freer to bring up certain issues in such a forum.

However, the major issue for us is that certain people are being granted access to Mr Jacob Zuma, based on their race.  It is wrong to say that only black journalists may meet with Mr Zuma in this kind of forum.  We all know how difficult it can be to get access to the leader of the ANC.  That is his right.  However it is wrong that we cannot send our Zuma correspondent to this forum because he is white.  Why must we send someone else to this meeting because they are black.  If Mr Zuma is speaking at a meeting, whether off the record or on the record, we have the right to send whichever journalist we like to that meeting.  But in this case our right to make that decision is being denied, because you have made it a black and white issue.

Our premise is that what whilst we understand the rationale for setting up a forum where Black Journalists can discuss issues of commonality and come up with strategies to promote their cause, we take issue with having the forum used to give access to a newsworthy person, purely on the basis of race. Entrance is being extended to all Black Journalists purely on the basis of their race and not membership to the organisation and is denied to White Journalists, again purely on the basis of their skin pigmentation.

Whilst the Constitution allows freedom of association and assembly, the premise is promotion of certain causes and not the exclusion of certain people.

Our colleages are being excluded purely because of the colour of their skin and not because of the content of the characters – and this is racist.