Distinctly African or Dimly African? A reflection on black journalism since 1994

  • Simphiwe Sesanti


Thirty years have passed since October 19, 1977, when the National Party banned black consciousness organizations and black-oriented newspapers – The World and the Weekend World. What drove the NP regime to such desperate moves was that the majority of black journalists in the 70s unequivocally identified their journalism with the liberation struggle. Black journalists declared themselves “black” first and “journalist” second. They questioned reference to “objectivity” by journalists who called freedom fighters “terrorists”. They objected to the misuse of this term by journalists who served in the then South African Defence Force, while they objected to black journalists' identification with the liberation movements. The term “black” was not just a matter of pigmentation but was used in a political context. In his book I Write What I Like, the black consciousness martyr, Bantu Biko, explained the concept of “black” thus: “Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.” Black journalists, therefore, understood blackness to mean, amongst other things, commitment. It is in this line of thinking that the Sowetan, the descendant of The World and Weekend World, was given birth to. The name Sowetan, as observed by the Sowetan’s first editor, Joe Latakgomo was identified with the “symbolism of Soweto to identify with the black struggle”. But what of black journalism since 1994?
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