Members of the Black First Land First movement and the Forum of Journalists for Transformation demonstrate outside The Citizens offices in Industria in support of the newspapers suspended editor, Steven Motale. Picture: Itumeleng English/The Star
Members of the Black First Land First movement and the Forum of Journalists for Transformation demonstrate outside The Citizens offices in Industria in support of the newspapers suspended editor, Steven Motale. Picture: Itumeleng English/The Star

Protests outside Citizen over editor's suspension

By GABI FALANGA Time of article published Nov 24, 2016

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Johannesburg - Steven Motale, suspended editor of The Citizen, says he became emotional when he saw that a protest had been held to fight for his reinstatement.

A group of protesters marched to The Citizen’s offices in Industria on Wednesday to raise grievances around alleged racism and editorial interference at the newspaper.

The march was organised by the Forum of Journalists for Transformation (FJT) and was supported by around 100 people from various organisations, including the Communication Workers Union, the Patriotic Alliance, Black First Land First and Cosatu.

The protesters carried posters saying “Hands off Steve Motale”, “Stop victimisation of journalists”, “Transform The Citizen now” and “Editorial independence is not negotiable”. They chanted “One settler, one bullet” and other Struggle songs.

A memorandum demanding an end to salary disparities based on race, racially based editorial division and the exploitation of black journalists was handed over.

The protesters alleged that the recent suspension of Motale was part of an agenda to advance white supremacy at the media house.

FJT president Piet Rampedi claimed that Motale was targeted and removed from his position following his decision to publish articles around the alleged irregular awarding of Sars tenders by former finance minister Trevor Manuel and for allowing SABC executive for corporate affairs and former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng a platform to share his story after facing criticism from ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.

Controversially, Motale also published an apology to President Jacob Zuma last year for unfair reports by the media. The Citizen later removed the article from its website.

Rampedi said Motale was sidelined for breaking ranks with the mainstream media narrative and introducing diverse perspectives.

He called for Motale’s reinstatement, fingering The Citizen as “the epicentre of media racism in the country”.

“As black journalists we’re not going to take their abuse lying down anymore,” he told the protesters.

Motale told The Star on the phone that he had not been involved in the organisation of the march, but was touched by the turnout.

“I was surprised there were so many people who came out in support. I’m highly appreciative of those people. It was very emotional for me when I saw pictures on social media,” he said.

Although Motale said the suspension process had been emotionally draining and had damaged his reputation, he would not give any further comment until the disciplinary procedure had run its course.

The Citizen’s publisher, Eureka Zandberg, met the protesters outside to receive the memorandum. She was rushed back onto the property after a scuffle broke out between protesters and her two bodyguards.

Rampedi was later allowed onto the property with police officers to hand over the memorandum. Zandberg issued a statement saying they would study the document and take any applicable allegations into consideration.

“We are aware of the allegations (regarding editorial interference, racism, exploitation, harassment and victimisation of journalists) and we wholeheartedly reject them as being unfair,” she said.

@Gabi_Falanga

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The Star

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