Monday, May 5, 2008

You aren't white enough, SAHRC tells black journalists

A few days ago, the South African Human Rights Commission delivered a ruling on the case raised by white journalists who has been barred from a Forum for Black Journalists (FBJ) imbizo addressed by president-in-waiting Jacob Zuma.

SAHRC ruled that "barring journalists from joining the Forum for Black Journalists on the basis of race is unconstitutional".

The argument the FBJ used to justify excluding white journalists did not pass the scrutiny of the Constitution, he said.

Among the loudest was Radio 702's editor, Katy Katopodis, who said excluding whites from covering an imbizo attended by Zuma was tantamount to denying them access to Zuma based on the colour of their skin.

FBJ have called the ruling a "judicial ambush" and a "banning order". FBJ's Abbey Makoe said the ruling amounted to "criminalising black people". He said:
"By its ruling the HRC has found us guilty for being black; it has criminalised black people; it has found us guilty for exercising the initiative to solve the problems not of its making. The HRC is bastardising the ability of black people to confront their experiential exigencies."

Related to the ruling was an incident in which a columnist referred to two journalists as "coconuts". While SAHRC "discouraged the use of the word, it did not find any wrongdoing by the columnist. In SA parlance, "coconut" refers to those who are black on the outside but white inside. In this case, it referred to black journalists who walked out of the FBJ imbizo in solidarity with their white colleagues.

While we try to exorcise Kenya of tribal ghosts through forced resettlement of IDPs, SA is using its institutions. The running thread is that you cannot force someone to like a neighbour, regardless of colour or tribe.

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