Pretoria - You cannot uphold and promote moral principles and values as a journalist, writer or an ordinary person when you live, work and want to survive in an unjust and immoral society.
This is according to veteran journalist Sandile Memela, who delivered the 13th annual Percy Qoboza Memorial Lecture hosted by the National Press Club in collaboration with Unisa at the institution yesterday.
This year’s theme is “Ethical Journalism v Survival of Journalism”, which highlighted the plight of journalists having to make decisions on morality in their work to survive.
The memorial lecture marked the 46th anniversary of Black Wednesday – a commemoration of October 19, 1977, when the apartheid regime banned black consciousness movements, newspapers like The World and Weekend World.
The event ws also held to honour Qoboza, who was detained at the time for being critical of the apartheid government.
Memela, a well-known journalist, novelist, cultural critic and a public servant who was reputed to be an intellectually provocative writer worked under Qoboza at a local publication.
“Journalists are now faced with this dilemma … you cannot hold two opposing thoughts and remain sane. You can’t fight the system and be part of the system. It's madness.
“So for an editor or a journalist, what is the price of survival? We must ask what does it take to hold on to moral principles and ideals that question authority.”
Memela, while contextualising the role of media practitioners, questioned what they could and could not do within the constraints of the situation that they found themselves in.
Memela bemoaned the country’s situation, saying that because it was the most unequal society on earth journalists had to find ways to survive.
“We all know about poverty, hunger, unemployment, inequality and racism.
“So how do you stand up against immoral employers? As a journalist or an editor. How do you bite the hand that feeds you?
“Today journalists must side with political parties to get stories and they would have to write from a particular perspective … and newspapers have to tread carefully about writing stories that embarrass corporations that bring in advertising revenue.”
Memela was referring to the objectivity of journalists and editors as opposed to pleasing those that paid the bills.
Weighing in on the topic following the lecture were SAfm broadcast-journalist Aldrin Sampear, Caxton local media group editor Irma Green and Unisa’s Professor Rofhiwa Mukhudwana, who formed part of the panel.