Suna, gone but not forgotten – Journalists’ take on ‘SABC 8’ member

According to Caxton journalist Ashtyn Mackenzie, the passing of SABC current affairs producer Suna Venter has sent shock waves through the journalism community.

Venter was found dead in her flat in Windsor West on 29 June.

While not all journalists knew Venter personally, we all knew of her. Having such a reputation and standing in the media village must have been a tough task to handle for any journalist or editor. ‘Suna Venter’ became a household name in July last year when the news of the ‘SABC 8’ reached all headlines and bulletins.

I remember the day like it was yesterday when journalists and media representatives from multiple platforms converged at SABC’s Auckland Park steps on 1 July last year. We came together on that #BlackFriday to protest the censoring of news by former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

We stood and marched to Constitutional Hill in solidarity with the SABC eight who had either been suspended or fired for speaking their minds.

Venter was not only one of the eight but one of us. By highlighting her own forced decent into a purgatory of silence, she gave us journalists, the power to express our own voice – something that is difficult in the job.

Viva media freedom, viva!

Marching through the streets of Braamfontein with Venter and her colleagues was a chilling moment I won’t readily forget. The last photograph I took of Venter has been etched in my memory; she looked directly into my camera lens and in doing so looked into my scrappy journalist soul.

Also read: “Suna will be missed” – SABC spokesperson

The death of any fellow journalist is a tough pill to swallow. It is a sobering reality that all journalists must face at many points in their careers. We are not invincible. Threats to our media freedom may come in the form of tear gas, rubber bullets, intimidation or harsh criticism. Our ‘media card’ cannot shield us from all harm.

Fellow journalist and desk neighbour, Phathu Luvhengo said, “I could only sympathise with Suna Venter and what she went through.

“There are so many voices who try by all means to silence media freedom in this country, often because they don’t want us to tell the public about their wrongdoings. We are often intimidated for telling the truth and holding the powerful elite to account. Not so long ago I was told that I will be hunted down and be found for telling a story about a group which was intimidating residents in Windsor.

“The man on the other side of the phone said to me, ‘I will hunt you down and find you, you are always writing lies’. It is behaviour like this which often leaves us fearing for our lives. Given what she went through during the SABC debacle, I can relate. We are often caught in our own misery for trying to make the world a better place.”

Caxton Local Media’s Weltevreden Park branch sends its condolences to Venter’s family.

Ashtyn Mackenzie

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