The FBJ will appeal the finding that it should revisit its policy of race-based membership exclusion.
Abbey Makoe, acting chairperson of the FBJ, told TheMediaOnline the organisation was particularly concerned about the SAHRC’s “flawed process”.
The commission announced its finding at a briefing in Johannesburg after investigating a complaint about the FBJ’s exclusion of white journalists from an off-the-record briefing with ANC president Jacob Zuma.
Makoe claimed the FBJ was the victim of a “judicial ambush”. The organisation believed it was participating in a public debate about the matter in early March, which turned out to be a “sham trial”. Had it known the debate was in fact a “hearing”, it would have sought legal representation, he said.
A visibly agitated Makoe told the briefing the organisation rejected the finding.
He called it the commission’s first “banning order” of a black initiative. “Black people don’t expire,” he said, later adding: “No one will stop us.”
‘A little bit upset’
Makoe later told TheMediaOnline, the fact that the FBJ said it rejected the finding, did not mean it would disregard it. “We can’t ignore it. I guess I was a little bit upset,” he said about his earlier statements.
He still plans to take the matter of the FBJ’s membership to an annual general meeting of the organisation Ã¢Â€Â“ the appropriate forum for changing the organisation’s constitution. A proposed “convention of black organisations” will be organised to debate the implications of the finding.
Responding to the claim of an FBJ “ban”, Kollapen said the SAHRC recognised the FBJ’s right to exist. Commenting on the process, he said the FBJ failed to formally respond to the complaint in writing.
The commission’s finding “in legal terms” was a recommendation, he said. It could take the matter to court if it wanted to get a “binding view”. That would only happen after consultation with the respondent and the complainant, Katy Katopodis, editor of Talk Radio 702 and 94.7 Highveld Stereo.
According to Kollapen, the commission accepted that the experience of black journalists was unique. However, “many that are not black would be able to identify with the objectives of the organisation”. To exclude such people based on race, would not be constitutionally defensible.
It was found the FBJ could limit attendance of its events to members, but it should not restrict membership based on race.
The real issue
Makoe said he was “not happy” that the real issue Ã¢Â€Â“ the transformation of the media industry Ã¢Â€Â“ was clouded by the black-white debate.
“Journalism must be the winner,” he said.
Katopodis also expressed the need for journalists to “move forward”.
Ã¢Â–Â Journalist Jon Qwelane said he was disappointed because the SAHRC had not dealt with his complaint against Talk Radio 702. Qwelane complained that 702 had “manufactured news” by sending a white reporter to the FBJ’s exclusive meeting with Zuma, and reporting on his exclusion.
Kollapen said it was not yet clear if the complaint fell within the SAHRC’s mandate.
Qwelane also complained to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA), but this body could not deal with it as it did not meet the requirements for complaints. He said he would not pursue the matter further with the BCCSA as it was “wasting time”.