SAHRC to probe eNCA and reporter Lindsay Dentlinger over racism claims
PRETORIA – THE South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will investigate the conduct of eNCA’s senior reporter Lindsay Dentlinger after her treatment of black and white politicians during interviews after last week’s national Budget speech in Parliament sparked allegations of racism.
“The SAHRC has opened an own accord investigation following various complaints, including from the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) General Bantu Holomisa, against eNCA reporter Lindsay Dentlinger,” the entity said on Thursday.
“The grievances allege that Ms Dentlinger treated interviewees differently on the basis of their race, in interviews conducted outside Parliament during the Budget speech on February 24. The commission is in the process of investigating the matter, and has requested to meet with the eNCA and Ms Dentlinger on the allegations.”
The SAHRC is one of South Africa’s Chapter Nine institutions established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution to safeguard democracy.
Last week, civil rights movement #NotInMyName descended on eNCA’s premises in Joburg, protesting against what it called the racism displayed by Dentlinger when she asked UDM’s black deputy president and member of Parliament to put on a face mask in line with Covid-19 rules prior to a live post-budget interview, minutes after having allowed a white politician from another party to go mask-less.
The rights group wanted accountability and action from eNCA management over Dentlinger’s behaviour, and felt that a statement issued by the channel in her defence was “basically a middle finger to black people and the black race,” #NotInMyName president Siyabulela Jentile told the African News Agency (ANA).
eNCA said there had been no “mal-intent” on Dentlinger’s part, adding that 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 ruling ANC this week also picketed at eNCA’s offices, and its deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte slammed the channel over its handling of the controversy.
“It’s a management response that says she didn’t mean it and they’re going to go through a disciplinary hearing. We saw what we saw, so is eNCA telling us they didn’t see what we saw and are they telling us they didn’t see not only that incident but many other incidents, which were then subsequently shown to viewers?” Duarte said.
“It’s not enough and really there’s no room for any racism, be it overt or subliminal or a mistake. No, they must teach their journalists how to treat people with respect.”
On Monday, Dentlinger apologised for the incident during an interview on the channel’s programme Power to Truth with JJ Tabane.
“I totally acknowledge the outrage and I apologise for the disrespect it has caused to the people who don’t deserve to be drawn into this,” she said.
“I felt awful from how this is perceived and what the country believes to be a true reflection of who I am as a journalist. I do acknowledge how it is portrayed. I am being portrayed as not speaking to any black unless he is wearing a mask.”
African News Agency (ANA)