Until its members decide to change its constitution, it will, however, continue to function as an “exclusive previously disadvantaged body”.
Abbey Makoe, FBJ chairperson, told TheMediaOnline “previously disadvantaged” did not refer to the “government definition” of the term. White women were also not welcome because they “were privileged in news rooms”.
He could not say how many members the FBJ had, as the organisation, which had been dormant since 2003-’04, was in a process of auditing its membership. The AGM would take place “soon”, he said.
Makoe, political editor of the SABC, spoke at a public seminar of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) about exclusive organisations on Wednesday.
The seminar was held following a complaint from Katy Katopodis, the editor of Talk Radio 702 and 94.7 Highveld Stereo, to the SAHRC. Katopodis claimed the FBJ’s exclusion of white journalists from a recent off-the-record briefing with ANC president Jacob Zuma, amounted to unfair discrimination.
She said she did not oppose the existence of the FBJ, but argued that limiting its membership based on race was unjustifiable.
In a submission to the SAHRC she referred to organisations such as the Black Lawyers Association, which does not restrict its membership based on race.
Makoe said in his submission the FBJ “believes black journalists have the right to use their minds, thoughts, views and platforms to enter the marketplaces of ideas on an equal footing with those that care to solicit a black view without being subjected to white sanction”.
He said the notion that black journalists could only “organise, assemble and associate contingent upon their white counterparts” smacked of “paternalistic arrogance”.
Jovial Rantao, chairperson of the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), said at the seminar the body had for a while been concerned about the lack of organisation among journalists.
He said a gap “clearly” existed owing to the demise and weakening of journalists’ unions.
Rantao said the re-establishment of the FBJ was in this sense a “step in the right direction”.
He said the FBJ matter would be discussed at Sanef’s council meeting.
Jody Kollapen, chairperson of the SAHRC, said a decision on Katopodis’s complaint and related complaints could be expected “soon”.
See “Related Links” below for a story on related complaints.