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Johannesburg - City Press editor Ferial Haffajee went on leave this week less than 24 hours after her explosive letter to staff went viral and the newspaper’s management announced that there would be an internal probe into allegations of racism.
“Your flintstone editor is out on leave. This will enable you to douse the fires I started. For where the flames licked painfully, I apologise, but do feel that we are about to embark on a journey toward far greater clarity of what we are and what we believe in,” she wrote to staff on Friday.
“I trust we will emerge stronger. And also know that there is nothing unusual – this is happening everywhere and I am glad it’s out in the open. I hope we get through it quickly so we can focus on our clear and binding common factor – good and even great journalism.”
Haffajee had tweeted this week about alleged racism in the City Press newsroom.
“I don’t tolerate white racists, so what makes black racists any different? Today, I drew a line in that sand. Two sides: one awful coin,” she tweeted on Wednesday.
Earlier that day, Haffajee had sent a letter to her staff in which she said she would not “walk on egg-shells or edit around false perceptions and real racism”.
“For that is what I saw yesterday! Real racism at work. Destructiveness and cultural superiority.
“I will have none of it. I will not work with racists,” she wrote.
She objected to, among others, “the racist view that only a black editor can get political stories through calls from black African politicians”.
“For one, I am black and African and will not live under your imposed identity on me. As to your views of our political connection, it is insulting and rubbish,” she wrote to staff.
“I’ve disproved that many times in my reporting life, as do our colleagues almost every week when they get scoops. I don’t buy into this racism and never will.”
City Press CEO, Fergus Sampson, was quoted this week as saying an internal probe was being conducted into the dispute between Haffajee and several journalists at the newspaper over the racism allegations.
“Our process is to get down to the facts and investigate what happened. It is an internal matter and an internal process,” he was reported to have said.
“We are working as fast as possible to get to the bottom of the issue, and we will come to a conclusion shortly. If we think it is warranted to issue a statement after the probe, then we will do so.”
The Star and The New Age reported that the group of City Press journalists singled-out by Haffajee were to lay criminal charges against the editor after they accused her of racism.
The papers said six journalists had decided to lay charges of racism and defamation against Haffajee after a meeting with human resources officials over the matter. - Additional reporting by Sapa