A shadowy assembly

The exclusion of white journalists from the inaugural meeting of the so-called Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ), addressed by ANC president Jacob Zuma on Friday, has been met with indignation among right-thinking South Africans.

The exclusion of white journalists from the inaugural meeting of the so-called Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ), addressed by ANC president Jacob Zuma on Friday, has been met with indignation among right-thinking South Africans.

Given our polarised past, many people are appalled by the very idea of any group of people wanting to organise themselves along racial lines.

This, they say, smacks of apartheid in reverse.

It is important, in our view, that we should be guided by the Constitution on this matter.

The supreme law of the land, as we all ought to know by now, outlaws racial discrimination.

But it also protects freedom of association.

It is our considered view that any group of people is entitled to mobilise around issues of common interest.

It is for this reason that we support the continued existence of, for example, the Black Lawyers Association. It is an indisputable fact that black lawyers still suffer discrimination and are excluded from lucrative jobs.

But we are suspicious of the motives of the people behind the FBJ's revival and who claim to represent the interests of black journalists.

Having said that, we are naturally suspicious when someone such as Zuma, given his contempt for the media, has an off-the-record briefing with some journalists and tells them to respect people in positions of power.

This, by the way, is the same Zuma who objected to a similar briefing that Bulelani Ngcuka, the erstwhile head of the National Prosecuting Authority, had with black editors only a few years ago.

Zuma has since been jumping up and down claiming that the editors had been mobilised as part of a conspiracy to prevent him from being the president of the country.

We find it particularly disconcerting that some of the people behind the revival of the moribund FBJ are not journalists and seem not to be motivated by the altruism that drives this noble craft and gives it integrity.

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