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SAJR expelled from SA Press Council

by Luqmaan Rawat

Johannesburg – The South African Jewish Report (SAJR) has been expelled from the Press Council of SA (PCSA). The expulsion comes after the SAJR refused to obey rulings from the Acting Press Ombud and the PCSA Chair of Appeals, Judge Bernard Ngoepe.

The SAJR published an article two years ago stating a cartoon depicting a greedy, overweight giant of a man eating a pile of money while the “man on the street” is drawn as a small, insignificant figure sitting in front of an empty plate was an anti semitic cartoon. The cartoon was in response to a nationwide strike by Clover workers who wanted better pay.

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Reason for the complaint

Hassen Lorgat, Peoples Media Consortium, and General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) were offended by the article after it labelled the SA BDS movement as anti semitic. What baffles Lorgat is that the cartoon is only available to see on the SAJR website.

“If you do a search now, the same cartoon comes out on their page [only]. My argument has been consistent on behalf of our movements, and of myself, was that if this is so offensive to you why is it on your pages and continues to be? I did the complaint. I said I was affronted as an individual, the organisation I belong to, PSA, an affiliate of BDS, were offended. And as a working-class activist, the movement of unions, pro-working-class, anti-racists to the core, were offended.”

On 28 January judgement was handed down. The SAJR were told to apologise to the SA BDS Coalition “for portraying both in the headline and the story that the cartoon was anti semitic and, in the process, labelling them as anti semitic” said Lorgat. The SAJR then appealed the matter, but it was dismissed.

After lengthy correspondence and SAJR refusing to abide by the ruling of the Press Council, they were expelled. This marks the first time that an organisation has been expelled by the PCSA.

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Is there a way back for the SAJR?

There have been suggestions that perhaps a public apology would bring the SAJR back into the PCSA. Lorgat believes the SAJR will never issue an apology simply because they do not want to be a part of the PCSA.

“I don’t think they want to be present at the Press Council. They’ll survive as a newspaper catering for a viewpoint of those who uncritically support the state of Israel … The simple rule is apologising and then you could belong to the family of journalists. I think that all we can judge is that they don’t want to play by the rules of fair play, respecting the dignity of others.”

Lorgat believes the SAJR is no longer respected by those within the PCSA and they must now work extremely hard to get that respect back. The decision to expel them was met with approval from other newspapers.

“Jewish Voice For Free Palestine and other groups are elated by this decision. The Press Council was forced into this position.”
Hassen Lorgat discusses the SAJR expulsion from the PCSA on Julie Allie’s show.

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