City Press is one of the most successful news publications in South Africa and is known for hard-hitting headlines. On Friday, the paper made headlines for unsavoury reasons. It has been alleged that the editor of City Press, Ferial Haffajee is a racist. Media reports say that a group of journalists in the employ of the paper are even considering laying criminal charges against the editor on the basis of their allegations of racism.
The tension between Haffajee and the journalists started at a staff meeting which was held earlier in the week. A journalist claimed that Haffajee had opened the floor and asked those in attendance to speak freely. The journalist alleges: “But she became offensive when we started raising pressing issues. Emotions ran high. The discussion shifted to the issue of transformation in management.”
The journalists are said to be unhappy with the manner in which the paper handles political stories in particular, those about President Jacob Zuma and the Democratic Alliance. They are also dissatisfied with Haffajee’s failure to appoint a black news editor.
Haffajee responded to what she referred to as the “racist mauling” of her existing editors with an email that was as hard-hitting as many of the paper’s headlines. According to the Mail and Guardian, Haffajee sent out an email on Wednesday, the day after the tense meeting, and asked the concerned journalists to take a week to consider their future at City Press. She also accused the journalists of being racist. Haffejee was quoted: “I saw real black racism at play and cultural chauvinism that I can’t stomach on Tuesday.”
The Chief Executive at City Press, Fergus Sampson confirmed that an internal investigation is under way. He explained that a process was put in place to find the facts. He added: “We are working as fast as possible to get to the bottom of the issue and we will come to a conclusion shortly.”
Such claims of racism can be disturbing to the public image of a popular publication and until the matter is resolved, the public is left wondering what is really going on behind the walls at City Press.