’Our journalist is not racist’: eNCA responds to online backlash over politician mask interviews
Durban - Independent news broadcaster, eNCA who has faced backlash online after a news clip emerged of one of its reporters asking a black politician to wear a face mask during an interview while a white politician was allowed to go mask-less has said the reporter’s conduct “was not racially motivated or with malicious intent”.
Senior eNCA journalist, Lindsay Dentlinger was conducting 2021 Budget Speech interviews on the step of Parliament.
In a clip, that has gone viral and led to the news station trending on Twitter under the #eNCAmustfall hashtag, shows FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald being interviewed without a mask. When UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa arrived for his turn to be interviewed, he was requested to put on his mask.
This led to allegations of racial bias against the broadcaster, with other examples of their “double standards” being cited by Twitter users.
In a statement on Thursday night, the broadcaster said it understood how the excerpt of Dentlinger’s coverage could have created a space for “general public conjecture”.
“However, eNCA Management, after meeting with Dentlinger to discuss the matter concluded that her conduct was not racially motivated or with malicious intent,” the broadcaster said.
The news station pointed out that Dentlinger was “a seasoned journalist with over 21 years of experience, 9 of which has been with eNCA”.
In her tenure with eNCA, she has primarily focused on political news, the broadcaster said.
Having worked in print, radio and television, Dentlinger has interviewed many high-profile politicians from all sectors and parties without anyone calling her conduct into question, the broadcaster said, adding that the incident represents an “inaccurate and unfair image of her work”.
“In an intense live broadcast environment like the Budget Speech coverage, our journalists are under pressure to remain compliant while delivering fair, accurate and balanced news. The journalist had to contend with being live on air and taking producer instructions via her earpiece and unfortunately failed to request that the interviewee wear a mask,” said John Bailey, Managing Editor of eNCA.
“Criticism to this extent levelled at a journalist under these circumstances is unfair and unfortunate. Comments and some video content that are currently being shared is maliciously misleading.”
The broadcaster added that when it came to adherence to Covid-19 protocols, eNCA had broadcast extensive content to educate viewers while journalists are regularly urged to ensure that they and all interviewees remain compliant.
“After carefully analyzing the situation, we understand that given the pressure of the live TV environment such unplanned occurrences can occur. Through our deliberations, we have found that there is no mal intent on the part of the journalist,” Managing Director, Norman Munzhelele said.
“We further found that the way the journalist and eNCA has been perceived through this incident is unfair and not a true reflection of the journalist or our channel.
“We also appreciate the sensitivity of the matter and people’s concerns and reaffirm our commitment to encouraging compliance with regulations designed to inhibit transmission of Covid-19 across our population irrespective of race, colour or creed.”