Activists #NotInMyName picket at eNCA demanding answers over alleged racism
Pretoria – South African civil rights movement #NotInMyName said it would on Friday picket at television news channel eNCA over a controversy in which one of its journalists asked a black member of parliament to put on a face mask in line with Covid-19 rules prior to a live interview, minutes after a white politician was allowed to go mask-less.
The channel has defended its senior journalist Lindsay Dentlinger against the backlash triggered by the interviews she conducted outside Parliament on Wednesday to get political parties’ reaction after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tabled the 2021 national budget.
“South Africans from different walks of lives have united in voicing their displeasure at the blatant ‘different treatment’, which in our view is pure racism, displayed by eNCA reporter Lindsay Dentlinger,” #NotInMyName president Siyabulela Jentile told the African News Agency.
“While some sections on social media have called it her ‘unconscious racial bias’, we at #NotInMyName raise our hand among those calling for explanation and action from the broadcaster – which we hold in esteem as a responsible and proudly South African institution.”
A video clip that has gone viral and seen the news station trending on Twitter with the the hashtag #eNCAmustfall, shows FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald being interviewed without a mask. But when UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa walks to the microphone for his turn, Dentlinger requests that he put on his mask.
Twitter users have levelled charges of racial bias against the broadcaster, citing other examples of its “double standards”.
“Media reports indicate that the row has been exacerbated when a clip of a similar incident, also involving Lindsay Dentlinger, was uploaded on social media. As #NotInMyName, we have resolved to pay a visit to eNCA offices to voice our concerns against structural racism,” said Jentile.
“We would want to hear from eNCA management how white people can be interviewed without putting on a mask while blacks South Africans must keep it on before being interviewed.”
#NotInMyName was due to picket at eNCA’s offices at around 11am.
The news channel has issued a statement defending its journalist, saying Dentlinger was a seasoned journalist with over 21 years of experience, nine of which have been with eNCA.
“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,” managing editor John Bailey said.
“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”.
Bailey said the criticism levelled at the journalist under these circumstances was “unfair and unfortunate” and that comments and some video content currently being shared on social media “is maliciously misleading.”
eNCA managing director Norman Munzhelele added that “such unplanned occurrences can occur”.
“Through our deliberations, we have found that there is no mal-intent on the part of the journalist. 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,” said Munzhelele.
“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.”
African News Agency (ANA)