Stormy meeting on the FBJ

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

A tempestuous debate yesterday glaringly highlighted the dynamics of race and identity in South Africa.

The forum, hosted by the Human Rights Commission in Johannesburg, followed a complaint lodged by Talk Radio 702 against the Forum of Black Journalists (FBJ).

The panel included the complainant, Katy Katopodis, news editor of Talk Radio 702, and the FBJ's Abbey Makoe as the respondent. It also included journalists, political leaders, analysts, the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) and members of the public.

The public forum came after white journalists were barred from a meeting between the FBJ and ANC president Jacob Zuma last month.

The radio station argued that it was discriminatory and unfair to exclude white journalists from the FBJ and the meeting on the grounds of race.

Some black journalists walked out of that meeting in support of their white colleagues. The radio station said the black journalists were called "coconuts" as a result of their walkout.

"Coconut" is a derogatory term used to describe black people deemed "white" or part of the white establishment.

Makoe criticised the manner in which the affected journalists had responded to their exclusion. They had "spoilt the party".

However, he commended Katopodis for lodging a complaint with the commission and employing "more civil ways".

The FBJ defended its right to form an organisation for black journalists to discuss matters of relevance.

Tempers flared when columnist Jon Qwelane accused black journalists from the station of being "coconuts".