Memorandum details complaints over ‘downplaying’ of their plight
Scores of NMMU students who form part of the # FeesMustFall movement marched to The Herald offices in Baakens Street yesterday to hand over a memorandum detailing their discontent with the way the newspaper has been reporting on student protests around the country.
They claimed the newspaper had been “downplaying and delegitimising” their struggle by describing them as rogue students, unruly and militant, among other things, which they said they found to be extremely defamatory.
Second-year BA politics and public administration student Yandisa Jubase, 20, who read out the two-page memorandum, demanded free and fair reporting and adherence to the South African press code.
The students said the paper was unwilling to do research on its stories and had denied them a right of reply, instead approaching the student representative council for comment.
The Herald editor Brett Horner said the # FeesMustFa ll campaign was a complex issue, not only in Port Elizabeth at NMMU, but around the country.
“Developments have been fast-moving and in this environment we have tried to capture the full range of voices,” he said.
“The students who gathered at The Herald yesterday were unhappy with some of our reporting. Naturally, we will take their grievances on board.”
“However, our attempts in recent days to reach out to the same group of students have been dismissed. “We invited the students to a sitdown meeting or to answer a Q and Astyle interview, but both were declined. “The invitation stands,” Horner said.
The students asked The Herald to close the comments section on the HeraldLIVE Facebook page and said should it fail to do so, they would approach the press ombudsman.
“Their demands for moderation of social media comments on our platforms are not without merit and certainly we would always hope that reader engagement would take the opinions and views of others into account,” Horner said.
“We will, with guidance from our group digital team, be looking at this pertinent part of our media offering.”
The students said they would bring the city to a standstill next week, when they would visit various public institutions to mobilise support from residents.
“There will be no rubber bullets. Our lecturers will march with us,” one student spokesman, who was not named, said.
After the memorandum was delivered, Jubase said their agenda for the day had been successful.
She told the students: “If it was not for you, then they will continue to delegitamise us and continue to undermine us. We will not allow that.”
“Today, we have done well and I want you to know you have changed the status quo, you have made history today.”