The inaugural Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium set for Black Wednesday

30 September 2020 - 12:19
By penwell dlamini AND Penwell Dlamini
September 24 2020
Journalist Joe Thloloe during an interview with Sowetan on Heritage Day in Roodepoort.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE September 24 2020 Journalist Joe Thloloe during an interview with Sowetan on Heritage Day in Roodepoort.

Thought leaders in the media industry will meet next month to reflect on the sector’s journey and its role in strengthening the country’s democracy.

The date set for this inaugural event is October 19, Media Freedom Day, which will be used to discuss various topics on the role played by  journalists in strengthening democracy.

The Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium, named after the late editor of Sowetan, will see great journalists such as former press ombudsman Joe Thloloe, former Sowetan legendary journalist Thami Mazwai and media expert Anton Harber  discuss burning issues in the sector.

Among the issues to be discussed is media freedom as a pillar of democracy, the state of newsrooms and the meaning of nation building principles today. These will be discussed under the theme Surviving 2020 and Media Credibility going forward.

The colloquium is presented  through a partnership between  Sowetan, the Aggrey Klaaste Trust, University of the Witwatersrand, South African National Editors Forum and DM5 Attorneys.

It will commemorate the events that took place on October 19 1977, known as Black Wednesday. On this day, the apartheid government clamped down on a number of organisations and newspapers sympathetic to the Black Consciousness (BC) philosophy. Three newspapers – The World, Weekend World and Pro Veritate were banned.

Among those arrested on that day was Klaaste, who ended up spending more than six months at the Modderbee Prison.

The clampdown was aimed at stifling media freedom and silencing those who spoke out against apartheid.

“The Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium aims to celebrate the courageous spirit of all those journalists and activists who spoke against apartheid and helped nurture a people’s desire for freedom. In addition to reflecting on Black Wednesday and its aftermath, the colloquium seeks to address pressing issues facing the media in contemporary South Africa,” the Aggrey Klaaste Trust said in its statement.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the media industry over the past few months. Revenue dropped drastically for some of the media companies and they ended closing down. Despite this, the media has continued to play a critical role in helping both the state and its citizens to fight the coronavirus. Their efforts were recently praised by President Cyril Ramphosa in one of his Monday newsletter.

Speaking to  Sowetan last week, Thloloe said SA needs to protect press freedom now more than ever. “Free media is the foundation of democracy. Democracy means that people have their say and they are not scared of saying what they believe and what they want… It is in that exchange of ideas that society flourishes. We need it today more than we’ve ever needed it before,” Thloloe said.