Zahira Kharsany
Zahira Kharsany

Young black journalist in confusion

Sitting in the forum held by the South African Human Rights Council (HRC) regarding recent issues regarding the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ) and its subsequent fight with Talk Radio 702, I wondered whether anyone really understood the matter at hand.

The fighting between the two over spilled into an attack on each other’s character: punches thrown (figuratively), blood shed and, in the end, no sign of the issue at hand.

Sure, 702 had a right to file a complaint about the racially exclusive manner of the FBJ; sure, the FBJ had in return every right to have its voice heard, but the slander on character I really could not understand.

I, for one, am all for the FBJ. Yes, go have a forum for black journalists; yes, go do good; but yes, (damn it) open your doors to whoever wants to attend so that you can all work together to improve the stature of black journalists. The FBJ’s exclusionary policy is ineffective and maybe even detrimental to the upliftment of black journalists in the long run.

I’m a young journalist, and the slanging match did nothing but make me feel as if I was let down. My idea that unity helps to bridge what has happened in the past now seems to be a false and utopian hope. I sat there in bewilderment; I watched people who made me believe so strongly in wanting to be a journalist degrade each other, and I wondered if I had indeed chosen the right profession.

Journalism for me is to report on the truth and to have a voice for those who do not have one — and to act as the fourth estate. (Right?!)

But when you hear that a certain group of media powerfuls had a closed meeting with one of the most influential people in South Africa, African National Congress president Jacob Zuma, it makes me wonder if there was, in fact, an ulterior motive. Sure, nothing may have been said or done, but the fact that the FBJ excluded others from such a luncheon will make any conspiracy theorist wonder what the truth is.

Or am I a little delusional?

Anyway, now that the ball is in the HRC’s court (so to speak) we will see what happens.

Here’s a full recap on events …

How it started:
Storm brews over journalists’ forum
Why the FBJ exists (comment piece)
Racism and the media: ‘We’re not out of the woods’
Questioning division

Read Ferial Haffajee’s piece in the M&G
Change starts at home

Yesterday’s round-up:

Don’t cry no tears, FBJ tells 702

What fellow bloggers have to say:
Coconuts, racism and SABC politics (Nice piece, though I have to argue that he mentioned the Black Lawyers’ Forum — which does not have exclusionary policies as long as people joining in contribute to the betterment of black lawyers.)
Racist South Africans retreat to apart-hate
Furore over FBJ and its coconut journalists

  • bb-aisha

    Good to see you posting here. I agree with you-I don’t have a problem with a black journalists association (the African-American Journalists Assoc is one of the most powerful) 702 raised the issue out of proportion. But the FBJ has shot itself in the foot by its mealy-mouthed attitude.

    The group should exist to help each other, to discuss issues relevant to them, to pave the way forward for black journalists-but they turned the relaunch into a political storm in a teacup.

  • Oom Frikkie

    Given our constitution, with its emphasis on non-racialism and a great many other virtues, should anyone belonging to a racially exclusive organisation be allowed to work in public media? I certainly would not be comfortable reading the work of someone who publically acknowledges and in fact proudly proclaims that he/she is a member of an organisation that excludes black people from its membership, and who trots out the usual justifications for doing so.

  • Only1Canoni

    Glad to know the gap between white journalists and black journalists is so large that it can never be resolved by both groups working together through a joint forum.


    Who is a “black” journalist ? What happens if one of your grandparents were white.. are you “black” or coloured ? Would you be allowed into the FBJ ?

    Does the FBJ check how curly your hair is?

    Seems to me that the term “black”, in the modern South African “apartheid” context is meaningless.

  • Dawn

    Thank you for a well written article. I’m especially pleased by the professional use of language; so many young people have no grasp of grammar or spelling. It’s a pleasure to read something that does not require me to imagine what you mean.

  • http://NA abduraghiem johnstone

    South Africa, a “fundamentalist” country?
    Black Journalists gather under freedom of association (act).
    It invites journalists to cover the story.
    The invitees will (obviously)include journalists who are white,red,green,and pink.
    The deliberations of black journalists are taken out of the initials social space to a wider audience.

    A black journalist association is sorely needed,
    for training in the art and related tools (technology).This includes(ferial haffejee’s swipe of)acquiring driving licences.
    Alles klaar?

  • Solly Moeng

    Many people arguing against the exclusion of “non-white” journalists at the meeting with ANC President Zuma seem to have no problem with the existence of the FBJ, as long as it doesn’t exclude “non-whites”. This doesn’t make sense. Either it is okay for such a forum to be created or it is not. Why allow it exist, call it “Forum of Black Journalists”, and then expect it to include journalists who are not black? Would that not be a contradiction? Perhaps they should rename it “Forum for Journalists Concerned with Black Journalist Issues/Causes” and then everyone can be a member…

  • Belle

    I listened to transcripts from the SAHRC hearing on this issue and was appalled at the vitriolic attacks, the racist insults and hate-speech that so-called professional journalists spewed out as “evidence” supporting the exclusivity of the Forum for Black Journalists.

    Frankly if the FBJ openly subscribes to such verbal savagery and racist attitudes then its preferable that they remain locked into an exclusive forum which isolates their throwback attitudes from the broader spectrum of journalism in this country.

    For the same reasons I support the mini-racist-State of Oranje: Rather ring-fence the Devil, than let the evil loose among us ordinary folk.

  • Richard Mungwara

    Im not a journalist. However I dont mind who wrote whatever news Im reading, black or white as long as the news is truth. We need objective reporting not subjective reporting.

  • Sabelo

    JOURNALISM DIED WITH THE LIKES OF Kuli Roberts, Casandra who go to events only to write about who wore what! FBJ IS A NECESSARY BODY however We need to revisit the notion of ‘Journalism’-JOHN PILGER might be the only journalist left!