Like the saying “You are what you eat”, is a person what they wear? More so is a public figure or a journalist what they wear? Like the India Arie song I am not my hair, the lyrics goes as follows:
“I am not my hair, I am not this skin, and I am not your expectations, no”
A journalist should not be taken away the freedom to wear or look the way they prefer to just because society or media houses says otherwise. Discussing the matter of whether or not journalists can or cannot wear clothing attires from political parties can be a tricky situation because it all depends on:
What type of a publication you work for
In which hours are you wearing your political clothing e.g. working hours, personal hours etc.
What is your position in that political party or what type of events are you attending
Every publication has their own set of rules and regulations that each person should bind to. For instance if you working for a fashion magazine whereby stories will be based on shoes, bags make-up, and accessories then wearing political clothing during working or personal hours shouldn’t matter. If a journalist is working for broadcast news like the SABC then they’ll certainly be conflict if a news anchor wore an ANC shirt when reporting. Even in print media, if a journalists mostly writes political articles, often wearing a DA cap or campaigning for the DA would make readers think that your writing is biased, favoured or one sided.
Here’s an interesting article of a farmworker who was fired for wearing an ANC shirt, Link: http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2016/04/14/Farmworker-fired-for-wearing-ANC-T-shirt-and-cap
This could also happen to a journalist and I do not think it is fair for someone to completely lose their job without a warning because of what they choose to wear, whether it’s political or not.
I had the same discussion with my peers and one of them mentioned what if it was the only clean shirt you had in your wardrobe and you had to go to work? What is more important, hygiene or your attire? Which sounded funny to most of us but you never know a colleagues situation may be at home which puts the journalist in a sticky situation because either way they will get in trouble for either not coming to work at all or coming to work with a political T-shirt. There is no better option. There should be some sort of leniency when it comes to journalists and supporting political parties because they too also have a right to an opinion, vote etc. Journalists are also human so why should it be a secret if they don’t want it to be, because viewers, readers, listeners etc. would also like to know where some journalists’ loyalty lies politically. At the end of the day you can’t please everyone, some things need to be compromised and if it means wearing the same shirt twice in a week to keep your job? So be it. Otherwise there’s other things you can write about that has nothing to do with politics, in that way you can go ham on politics in your own time because according to the SA press code; “2.1. The media shall not allow commercial, political, personal or other non-professional to influence or slant reporting. Conflicts of interest must avoid as well as arrangements or practices that could lead audiences to doubt the Medias’ independence and professionalism.” Meaning journalists should not allow personal views infringe on their news reporting or articles. Just as long as you do not let the political events you go to influence your reporting or stories.
There was an incident whereby Independent Newspapers group executive editor Karima Brown and opinion and analysis group editor Vukani Mde attended the ANC 103rd birthday in their personal time and had a lot of media raging about them wearing ANC attire. Link: http://mg.co.za/article/2015-01-28-ombudsman-journalists-wearing-anc-colours-were-not-biased
This is what the Press ombudsman Johan Retief published on Wednesday that “Your personal conduct has nothing to do with this office; but if your behaviour is followed by publication, it certainly may have,” Retief said. “The complaint is dismissed.” It was also confirmed that neither of the journalists reported on the event they attended as it was in their personal capacity.
Just as long as you understand the rules and regulations at your work premises then this shouldn’t apply when you in my personal space. Which can be a little complicated depending in which position you are in as a journalist because if you were a student journalist then no one will really pay mind to you but once you become an editor of a publication or news anchor in a way you automatically become a public figure and have to combine your work style to your lifestyle.
Overall, journalists wearing political attires may fall in Immanuel Kants’ Categorical Imperative ethical framework because it deals with issues that one has a duty to ones’ conscience. A journalist wearing an ANC hat or shirt should know that he/she is not supposed to visibly show support. But at the end of the day all that matters is that the journalist reports news that is fair, unbiased and true.