‘Ilanga’ journos in historic strike

2012-04-09 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’s oldest Zulu newspaper, Ilanga, will be the first newspaper in recent memory not to publish because of a strike by journalists.

The only other known newsroom strike in South Africa was many years ago at the Rand Daily Mail, which only lasted for two days. “Even then, many people still came to work despite the strike. We did not lose any production,” said Raymond Louw, veteran South African journalist and media freedom activist.

Ilanga journalists downed tools on Friday protesting low wages and poor working conditions.

“If you look at today’s (Sunday) edition, you can see that the engine of the newspaper, the journalist, is on strike. The paper content is very poor,” said a journalist.

MD Arthur Konigkramer yesterday confirmed that today’s edition will not be published, and said yesterday’s paper was produced without reporters.

Journalists said their pay is the lowest in KZN, despite the paper’s rising circulation, but Konigkramer said rising circulation means more distribution costs, not more profits. He denied the journalists are so poorly paid.

Professor Jane Duncan from the media school at Rhodes said the strike sounds unprecedented. She said readers will suffer but questions must be asked why the staff had taken such a huge step.

“… This implies to me that there must be something seriously wrong with working conditions at the paper. Ethical journalism is not possible if working conditions are poor. So it is possible that the journalists have taken a decision that will impact negatively on their readers in the short term, in order to improve conditions for journalism and ultimately for the information needs of their readers in the long term.”

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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