04/11/2014

Our man in Johannesburg

Blog / By Theophilus Abbah
At African Investigative Journalism Conference. Photo by Sanne Terlingen

It is cold in Johannesburg, but so refreshing to see old faces.  We catch up, exchange banters and briefly summarise our individual experiences in the last one year. Some of us have won journalism awards; some have done new great stories; some have moved to other media. Investigative journalism remains tough, but when you manage to publish and even begin to receive acclaim, it’s all worth it.

The keynote was riveting today. Professor Jock McCulloch took us through the crimes committed by corporations who own mines in South Africa. They endanger the lives of miners by failing to manage the dust. Many become infected with silicosis; others with deadly tuberculosis. The tuberculosis also infects the rural communities of the miners. Companies dodge payment of compensation.

I can only think that we in the media are at fault. I am astonished to hear that mining firms easily silence critical journalism by sponsoring feature articles that highlight their ‘good works’. Media have also unquestioningly presented false reports by corporations’ own medical doctors on the state of health of mine workers, and equally uncritically reported on films produced by these companies that portray miners’ lives as pleasurable.

The presentation was an eye opener with regard to private sector offences. Journalists must wake up to their duties. There is some great data journalism training being given here at the conference which will be useful.

Looking forward to tomorrow,

Theophilus Abbah.