Forum of Journalists for Transformation (FJT) statement on eNCA’s doek scandal
The FJT expresses its disgust at the distasteful decision by eNCA news editors to recall a story due to a black female reporter wearing a “doek”. The latest actions by eNCA are merely confirmation of the South African media industry’s hostile approach and position on African matters, another case of self-hate.
This comes hot on the heels of recent developments where the entire eAfrica unit was retrenched without following due process – a matter which is currently at the Labour Court. What is baffling with this story is that it alludes to the fact that there is a certain style guide that people employed at eNCA need to adhere to in terms of dress code.
ENCA editor in chief “Professor” Anton Harber said on Radio 702 that there are some employees who feel that their policy should be reviewed. To begin with, in whose interest is their so called style guide that negates African attire in Africa during Africa month? For ENCA, doeks are clearly a curse when even renowned international news channels such as Al-Jazeera do allow their reporters to wear them.
Of particular concern to the FJT are the condescending responses Harber has been giving in media interviews wherein he sought to shift the blame to a black subordinate, who is currently overseas.
This is both irresponsible and unprofessional on Harber’s part.
As the head of news, he should take responsibility for the mess and stop trying to individualize what is effectively a racist and exclusionary company policy.
The FJT salutes daughter of the soil Nontobeko Sibisi, the reporter at the center of the doek scandal, for her act of bravery, journalistic integrity and public service.
She has risked her career by responding positively to our public call for the victims of discrimination and racism in the media landscape to stand up, be heard and take their rightful place as the true custodians of our fragile democracy.
The FJT reiterates its call for stifled black voices to take a leaf from Sibisi’s book and not continue watching the game they should be playing.
Expectedly, we have been informed that some ENCA managers and editors – who secretly support and admire racial and cultural discrimination against black staff – are conspiring to victimize Sibisi.
We would want to warn the channel against worsening the situation by trying to persecute Sibisi in the name of protecting its brand.
Instead, ENCA and Harber must prove that they are genuinely against cultural and racial exclusivity by publicly apologizing to Sibisi for insulting her Africaness.
They must embrace the reporter for her bravery and frankness, and use the doek scandal as an opportunity to reflect and implement measures to ensure inclusivity.
In this regard, the FJT would be watching developments at ENCA with keen interest, and would not hesitate to act should Sibisi and other suffocating members be persecuted.
The so called doek scandal comes as no surprise at all to the FJT given eNCA’s and other media houses well- documented history of anti-black racism, white supremacy, discrimination, nepotism and the victimization of staff who demand transformation.
In recent years, the channel has been rocked by one scandal after the other including the persecution of uncompliant black staff, the violation of labour laws and the promotion of less qualified white senior managers like “professor” Harber at the expense of their black counterparts.
Among others, the company previously forced black journalists to mimic white accents on the pretext that indigenous black accents aren’t suitable for the channel’s brand.
It once discriminated against a qualified black reporter who had applied for a job on e-Africa because his indigenous African accent was deemed to be unsuitable for the eNCA “brand”.
A few months ago, it fired former deputy technical head and FJT Deputy General Secretary Sanza Morobane for merely mobilising staff to join a union, a right which is guaranteed by the constitution.
It is ironic that this should happen while Africa Day celebrations are in full swing and under the watch of “professor” Harber as eNCA editor-in-chief.
FJT welcomes widespread support for Sibisi, but wishes to caution against those who are trying to hijack her plight (and the struggle against media racism and discrimination in general) for narrow purposes of popularity.
Even those who are not known for publicly associating with this costly struggle for the emancipation of black media professionals have been parading themselves as the chief defenders of media transformation, African culture and traditions.
We want to remind such hobby activists that the natural colonial habit to teach those whose circumstances you are exempted from constitutes paternalistic arrogance.
Those behind the victimization of
uncompliant black professionals should be put on the straight and narrow to be steeped in the values of a continent they claim allegiance to.
But those humble enough to wish to embrace African values should suppress the natural colonial temptation to teach and thus render custodians of the African culture under attack as their permanent students.
Given that 22 years after democracy white supremacy appears to be reigning supreme in some of our media institutions – it is important for the good “professor” (Harber) to learn a thing or two while he is “bashing” out a new policy: That the – doek – in Africa is very important for black women because it is a symbol of respect, graciousness, is sentimental and is of religious and cultural significance.
Furthermore, we would like to state clearly that the recent celebrated Press Freedom is enjoyed by those who run media houses and not filtering down to journalists.
Black reporters have largely been silenced by editors who are hell bent on pursing the narrow minded narrative of anti-transformation, racially skewed narratives and the subtle notion that black people are inherently corrupt, dishonest and unable to government.
In addition, the deafening silence of black editors proves that black lackeys are central in the South African media industry’s agenda to stifle black excellence and silence black journalistic voices that are pro-transformation and empowerment.
Lastly, we call on eNCA’s management to hold those responsible to account.
COSATU should also instruct its affiliate (Sactwu), the majority shareholder at Hosken Consolidated investments (HCI) – owners of eMedia – to address the plight of the destitute and persecuted black employees at eNCA once and for all.
Released by acting FJT national