The saga of the blacklisting of Sowetan journalist, Anna Majavu, continues unabated this week as media institutes, political parties and analysts enter the fray. The ANC has called for the
TheMediaOnline spoke to Anna Majavu to get her take on the story.
Question: It seems like an extraordinary move by the DA to blacklist you, especially in light of its professed opposition to the MAT and its professed support of freedom of speech. Is it really just one story, one of course that relates to the actions of one its members, that has it gunning for you or perhaps a more general dislike of trade unions? What is your take on this?
Answer: Whenever the DA doesn’t like anything a journalist or an academic has published or blogged about, it sends people to pay the journalist a visit, or calls them up and complains – sometimes at great length. Many journalists complain about getting these phone calls and UCT constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos has blogged about this in the past.
We do also get these calls from other parties but the point I am making is that this is not the first time the DA is doing something like this. The “blacklisting” is nothing to do with my trade union background. The DA added me to their press list and kept me on it for over two years, all the while knowing that I had worked for Samwu in the past.
They only took me off their list when they filed their second complaint to the Press Ombudsman on the story about MP Pieter van Dalen having been implicated in taking pot shots at children in his previous job as a DA councillor in the City of Cape Town.
The other irony is that, in my previous jobs at Samwu and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, the press releases I put out for the organisations were on the whole more critical of the ANC than the DA.
Question: I would imagine that having worked in communications for a union, and as a political reporter, you understand both sides of the media game. I’m sure that as a spokersperson for a union, you were asked to provide comment to publications that perhaps did not like unions. Did you ever refuse to comment in the face of a journalist’s perceived bias?
Answer: I never refused to comment to anyone but indeed, I too am guilty of once taking Ferial Haffajee off the Samwu press list for two weeks! She was then an associate editor at the Financial Mail and her publication had run a profile on the Samwu general secretary where they superimposed a viking’s hat onto his head. It was childish and when she asked to be put back on, I did so.
Question: What is your / Sowetan’s next move? Will you fight the blacklisting, or simply find the material yourself. It’s not as if it’s not available elsewhere so it seems a rather petty move by the DA.
Answer: The DA says they have cut communication with me but many of their MPs have not been informed of this and still speak to me regularly. They visit my office, I interview them in their offices. I told some of them last year that I had been taken off the list and they laughed and said it wasn’t possible.
I will lkeep going after any stories in the public interest, and especially those stories about subjects affecting Sowetan readers. If the DA media people don’t want to give me information, there are always other sources, even inside their own party.
In fact when some of their members resigned because they felt the DA had failed to discipline adequately a rural councillor who let her dog starve to death, I got the information from insiders and wrote the story. Soon afterwards, I saw DA officials writing on facebook that by writing that story, I had shown I had a negative attitude towards their party.
It seems that they genuinely expect journalists to send sources with credible and valuable documents packing if those documents show the DA in the negative light. This is not real journalism, and I won’t cover up for any political party, whether it is the DA, ANC or COPE.