E-tv reporter Ben Said has questioned the need for a Forum for Black
Journalists (FBJ) in South Africa in 2008, write Phakamisa Ndzamela
and Lenyaro Sello.

Speaking at the Mail & Guardian Journalism Dialogue on racism, Said told the audience that he insisted on attending the racially exclusive FBJ meeting with ANC president Jacob Zuma because it was part of his job to cover Zuma.

Said said the problem with the FBJ meeting was that it was not restricted to journalists. People outside the journalism fraternity had attended.

Said questioned whether the FBJ encouraged integration or disintegration of the media. He said that although black journalists had problems in this country, it was not helpful to discuss their concerns exclusively.

Political editor of the Sowetan newspaper, Ido Lekota said: “It was made clear that white journalists were not invited.” Lekota added that the meeting was off the record and was not for the public. Lekota asked: “Is there anything wrong for victims of apartheid, 14 years down the line, to caucus?”

Jessie Duarte
spokesperson for the ANC, said the party had discussed and agreed that Zuma would address the FBJ. Duarte added that there were subtle racial stereotypes in the media, and asked whose voice is being heard in today’s media and “whose important agenda” is being “put out there”. She said the, “question of ownership of media remains unresolved”.

Duarte noted that when white people committed a crime the media sympathised and blamed their behaviour on their respective backgrounds.

Comparing the Waterkloof incident where four white youth brutally murdered a homeless black man to the story of a black couple who killed their child, Duarte said the latter were portrayed as brutal killers.

The CEO of the Human Rights Commission , Tshidiso Thipanyane, said that the brouhaha showed that the media was not immune to racial problems. He also indicated that transformation has not failed to root out racism in South Africa.

Thipanyane said that while the media had covered racism, it did not cover it well. He said the media was “characterized by weak analysis” when it came to the issue of racism. Thipanyane said that it was “nonsense” that all black journalists were progressive.

Executive editor of the star Janet Smith said the activism of journalists in some publications had been curtailed.

The dialogue was the first of a series that will be carried around the country.