JOHANNESBURG – On 19 October 2022, Media Freedom Day, the Aggrey Klaaste Trust (AKT) in partnership with the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF), the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the Sowetan newspaper, Alex FM and DM5 Incorporated, will host the Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium to commemorate the events that took place on 19 October 1977, the infamous Black Wednesday.
On this fateful day, the apartheid government clamped down on a number of organisations sympathetic to the Black Consciousness (BC) philosophy. More than 19 organisations and three newspapers, The World, Weekend World and Pro Veritate, were banned. Many activists were arrested and thrown into prison. Also arrested were scores of journalists and editors. Aggrey Klaaste was among those detained. At the time he was news editor of Weekend World and deputy editor of The World under Percy Qoboza’s editorship. The nationwide clampdown was aimed at stifling media freedom and silencing those who opposed apartheid.
The aim of this year’s Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium is to celebrate the courageous spirit of all those journalists, editors and activists who spoke out against apartheid and helped nurture a people’s desire for freedom. In addition to reflecting on Black Wednesday and its aftermath, the colloquium seeks to address pressing issues facing the media and contemporary South Africa.
Since its inception in 2020, we have expanded the reach and the impact of our Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium.
From hosting a single event in 2020 we amplified our efforts to collaborate with over 14 organisations in the media and Black Consciousness community in order to host 13 various commemorative events nationwide in 2021, under a single umbrella theme called “Nation Building Conversations With Each Other”. The idea was to have a single unifying theme that brings together all the different organisations which observe this day to collaborate in finding solutions to the problems facing our battered media industry and wider society.
In recent years, the media industry has been grappling with critical issues of media sustainability, credibility and the safety and security of journalists. This was brought to the fore by the July unrests in 2021 when many journalists came face to face with violent, angry mobs that threatened their safety. In some alarming cases journalists were physically attacked and even robbed of their equipment as they reported on the events taking place.
The ever-increasing attacks on journalists all across the nation is a clear indication that a lot of work needs to be done in educating the people of our nation on the important role played by the media in our society.
The 2021 Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium was a step in that direction and so it was fitting that its theme was billed as: “Safety and Security of Journalists and Media Sustainability”.
Our goal was to tackle the disturbing issue of journalists being attacked in our society and analyze how this affects media sustainability and our democracy. The sad irony of the attack on journalists during the 2021 July unrest was that the journalists were out reporting on the turbulence to amplify the voices of the people on the ground.
This is why we felt it was important to hear from the journalists that had been attacked and explore ways of addressing this issue.
Our esteemed panel of speakers included, Dr Thami Mazwai, Samkelo Maseko, Mrs. Hajra Omarjee, Ntombizodwa Makhoba and our moderator was the remarkable Mrs. Nomshado Lubisi-Nkosinkulu.
It was heart-wrenching to listen to Ms. Makhoba and Mr Maseko relay their traumatizing personal accounts of being attacked for simply doing their jobs as journalists. There were however promising outcomes from last year’s colloquium which we believe will bring about unifying measures to bridge the gap between journalists and the communities they serve.
Dr Thami Mazwai summed it up perfectly when he stated that:
“One protection the media must always seek is to be relevant to the reader. Once the reader trusts the publication, politicians become afraid of touching the media, because it has exulted itself above the ordinary life of the day to play its rightful role as the watchdog of the people’s liberties.”
The 2022 Aggrey Klaaste Annual Colloquium is largely based on this line of thinking. Last year the entire nation watched in horror as residents stormed the Alex FM radio station to steal equipment during the unrest. It was estimated that the radio station suffered damages around a whopping R5 million. Exactly one year after that, Alex FM suffered another devastating blow when one of its celebrated music managers and presenters was brutally gunned down and killed in an armed robbery on his way home from the radio station.
On account of this, we are kicking off our much-needed national media literacy campaign in the community of Alexandra in partnership with Alex FM and the people of Alexandra. The idea is to urgently address the alarming upsurge of attacks on journalists, media freedom and media sustainability by venturing into South African communities to educate our people on the critical role played by the media and the devastating consequences of the increasing attacks on journalists in our country.
We seek to bridge the widening gap “sivale isikhewu” between journalists and the communities they serve by inviting ordinary people on the ground to participate in our media literacy campaign to help us find solutions to these difficult problems as opposed to preaching to those who are already converted in the media space as if the media operates in isolation.
As we reflect on the bravery of the many journalists, editors and activists who took a stand against tyranny on 19 October 1977, we must ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain. Let’s stand together, as they did, to vehemently protect our hard-won freedoms by creating platforms that encourage ordinary South Africans to protect our journalists whenever they are intimidated and attacked.
We invite you to join us on 19 October 2022, Media Freedom Day at the Pan Africa Mall in Alexandra, (near the Alex FM radio station) for the launch of our national media literacy campaign. It promises to be an educational and thought-provoking day of commemoration.
Nation building is needed NOW more than ever.
2022 AGGREY KLAASTE ANNUAL COLLOQUIUM DETAIL’S THEME: SIVALA ISIKHEWU (BRIDGING THE GAP) MEDIA LITERACY CAMPAIGN
DATE: 19 OCTOBER 2022, MEDIA FREEDOM DAY
VENUE: PAN AFRICA MALL, CORNER WATT AND THIRD AVENUE, ALEXANDRA
TIME: 15:00 – 16:35