By Andries van Zyl FCJ Limpopo member
The FCJ (Forum of Community Journalists) is an independent, non-profit, non-racial and voluntary organisation (registered as a Section 21 company) striving to promote and express the interests of all journalists employed on a permanent or freelance basis at regional community newspapers, magazines and online community publications in South Africa.
Representing hundreds of journalists from among the estimated 500 community newspapers across the country, the FCJ takes great pride in their duty to safeguard press freedom as the corner stone of any healthy democracy. The national management committee (Board of Directors) also comprises a group of volunteers.
Over the last 20 years, the FCJ’s main mandate remained the same: To provide training to its members through initiatives such as their regional seminars.
The other big initiative is the FCJ’s prestigious Annual Local Media Excellence Awards. This event is regarded as the “Oscars” of the South African community press industry and until 2014 it was known as the Sanlam/MDDA Community Media Awards.
The regional seminars include one for Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo (also called No Guts, No Glory), one for Eastern Cape and the Garden Route, one for North West and the Free State and one for the Western Cape.
Training is provided free of charge in the form of editorial talks and workshops by industry leaders and members of the country’s top tertiary institutions. Training seminars are scheduled over a one or two day period to accommodate newspapers who cannot afford to go without their journalists for a longer period of time.
This is especially the case with emerging publications and journalists from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Being free, these seminars provide many a training opportunity which, under normal circumstances, would not have been possible or even affordable. The seminars are therefore extremely popular.
Aplly for your FCJ Press Card today!
The Forum of Community Journalists (FCJ) now offers press cards to eligible journalists, photographers, editors and freelancers working for South African magazines and newspapers (both print and online publications).
What sets the FCJ Press Cards apart from the rest is the unique message printed on the back of the card for the South African Police Service. A quote from the SAPS’s Standing Order 156 will now always be at hand, and come in handy when journalists have to deal with stubborn or newbie police officials.
These cards are issued in English on the following conditions:
New Application: FCJ Members
When applying for your first press card, you will have to obtain an original application form from your region’s FCJ representative, which must be completed in full and signed by the editor of the publication you represent. Once your application has been signed off where applicable, you need to forward the original with your photograph. Your first press card will be issued to you free of charge thanks to our generous sponsors in Cape Town.
People take and share more photos now than ever before, and they are shared in many different ways, including social media. Hence Photography Law, especially as it pertains to journalists, has become very topical and should be dealt with in more detail.
Generally speaking, in South Africa, a photographer has the right to take photos of anyone or anything that can be seen from a public area. (So taking photos from streets, parks, concerts or sporting events is permitted).
Photographers employed by a community newspaper, however, usually deals with the lower South African courts and should note that this rule does not hold true for the court room.
A photograph or sketch of adults in criminal cases may not be published before the suspect is charged. (An arrested person is known as a suspect). In sexual offences cases only, the identity of the accused (a person who has been formally charged is known as the accused) may not be published in the time between being charged and pleading guilty/not guilty to the charge. The identities of adults or children in divorce cases may not be published without authorisation.
Isabel Venter, FCJ Director for the Limpopo Province, was able to learn more about what is expected from journalists and photographers before being allowed to take photographs inside the courtroom.
She found that courts are increasingly allowing access to journalists and photographers with few restrictions. Authorisation is obtained from the preceding magistrate, and can usually be obtained without any pesky paperwork by simply introducing oneself to him/her beforehand and stating your reasons for being there and needing photographs. At this stage it is important to take note that is considered good manners to ask the state prosecutor to make the necessary introductions.
The correct and legal way, however, is to bring an application in terms the Regulations for Judicial Officers in the Lower Courts, No. R.361 of 11 March 1994.
This document is constructed in a fairly self-explanatory manner that is easy to complete. The FCJ also took the time to compile an additional document that provides examples of reasons that can be supplied to convince the court why permission is needed to report on a particular court case. This document also contains a standard form that indemnifies the court from any liability in the case of damages to any camera or recording devices.
Once completed this document should be presented to the magistrate in his chambers (it is wise to check with the prosecutor when the magistrate is available).
The magistrate will then request the accused person and their legal representative to be present; usually they will provide reasons why they would like the application to be rejected. TIP: From the get go point out that you will not be using a flash and that you will try to be done with your photographs as quickly and noiselessly as possible. In the case of video cameras or sound recording clearly explain how you’re going to set-up your equipment. Most magistrates’ will make a favourable consideration to this because the intrusion will be kept at a minimum. Get the application here: file (82.48 KB).