Right2Know responds to Forum of Journalists for Transformation: Congrats on your launch, but if you are journalists, then get your facts straight!
The Right2Know Campaign welcomes the launch of the newly established Forum of Journalists for Transformation (FJT), recognising that this is a necessary initiative with the potential for a collective or working journalist to positively contribute to the democratisation of the South African media landscape.
However, the Right2Know Campaign notes with concern the contents of a speech delivered by Piet Rampedi, Interim President of the newly established Forum of Journalists for Transformation (FJT), delivered in Johannesburg on 29 November 2015 and published on www.ujuh.co.za.
The speech, delivered in respect to the launch of the FJT, contains a number of inaccuracies about the Right2Know Campaign.
Together with the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Rampedi accused the Right2Know Campaign of being a “sectarian, homogenous and reactionary grouping of friends and cronies whose common goal is to frustrate genuine transformation”. According to Rampedi, the Right2Know Campaign et al. are opposed to “black excellence”, and strive to safeguard the “status quo” of an un-transformed media in South Africa, at the expense of black poor and rural people. Rampedi also incorrectly insinuates that Anton Harber (Wits University) is associated to the Right2Know Campaign as a “public face”.
All of these accusations are entirely incorrect, untruthful and factually wrong.
The Right2Know Campaign is not sectarian and not homogenous. This can be easily verified by reading our constitution or any of our other operational documents, and by taking a look at the various different communities, and community organisations who are members of the campaign throughout the country, and who work tirelessly to promote its principles of a free and open society. We do not know why Mr Rampedi insinuates that we are opposed to “black excellence” or work at the expense of poor and rural black people. We know that Mr Rampedi can have no evidence to substantiate this blatant lie and are therefore at a loss as to why he said it since it cannot be further from the truth.
It is incorrect to associate the Right2Know Campaign with organisations such as the FXI or MISA since the nature of our structures is entirely different to these or similar NGOs. We are a social movement/campaign with grassroots support across the country, and a great deal of our work is performed by volunteer activists from poor communities. If Mr Rampedi would like more information on our institutional structures or democratic decision making procedures, he can refer to our relevant policy statement.
As a matter of fact, Anton Harber has never, since the inception of the Right2Know Campaign in 2010, acted as a spokesperson of the Right2Know Campaign or served on any of its leadership structures or committees. While we will reserve comment on Mr Rampedi’s remarks regarding Anton Harber’s professional credentials, we confirm that Anton Harber does not serve in any manner to represent our campaign in any way.
The Right2Know Campaign adopted its position paper on Media Freedom, Diversity and the Right to Communicate in March 2012. Since then we have consistently promoted the ideal of a more diverse media landscape in our country on various different platforms, at protests and most especially, during our engagements with grassroots community organisations. If Mr Rampedi does not believe us, then he can browse through the extensive archive on the Media Freedom & Media Diversity tab on our website, where he will find a comprehensive history of all of our varied efforts on this front, going back over a period of five years. But only one example of such work, is when we mobilised on a National Day of Action and delivered memorandums to Naspers/Media24, the SABC, Independent Newspapers, Vodacom, MTN, Telkom Mobile and Cell C, listing various demands related to the democratisation and transformation of the media and communications environment in South Africa, including the highly monopolised nature of the print media sector. Although we are very much aware that there are a variety of other media outlets, institutions and organisations which equally deserve critical attention, we ask that Mr Rampedi bear in mind that ours is a campaign run predominantly by volunteers with limited resources. We do all we can.
Our recently published document, entitled Media Transformation & the Right to Communicate, further expresses our desire to work for a more democratised media environment in our country, where a diverse media is made freely available to all.
While the FJT was hosting its launch, the Right2Know Campaign was holding a series of nationwide media transformation workshops and summits, involving participation from community organisations, media workers and community media around the country. Reporting on these R2K summits confirms that the variety of issues surrounding the transformation of the media are matters which impact on ordinary citizens, some of whom have used this platform to voice their anger. One journalist noted: “As a journalist, I was often taken aback during the course of the summit at the depth of anger and isolation felt by ordinary people, especially those from poor communities who felt the media serves the rich and that they are denied a voice”. Such reporting also confirms Right2Know’s engagement with persons from diverse, poor and grassroots backgrounds, laying waste to the notion that we operate as a sectarian or homogenous group. The next of these summits will be held in Johannesburg on 5 December 2015.
Piet Rampedi is a widely respected investigative journalist, so it is concerning that he has displayed a clear aversion for the facts and the truth in his representations of the Right2Know Campaign. This does not bode well for the FJT regarding its attitude toward promoting an adherence to high standards of ethics within the journalistic profession.
Moreover, we are dumbfounded as to why Rampedi would suggest that we aim to defend the “status quo” of an un-transformed media, when we have for the past five years been working toward the opposite. Indeed, we have been promoting the notion of a meaningful process of democratic media transformation for many years now, and long before the FJT was envisaged.
Nonetheless, we still believe that an organised collective of journalists and media workers such as the FJT have the potential to offer a crucially important contribution to the meaningful transformation of our media landscape, which is related to the communications rights of all peoples. We are open to discussions, and would welcome engagement with the FJT on this matter.
We invite Mr Rampedi and any members of the FJT to our Johannesburg Media Transformation Summit on 5 December, 10:00-15:00 at SERI, Braamfontein, to engage with us on this topic. All are welcome.