Zwarte Piet has “no place in modern society” says Black Members’ Council

  • 23 Dec 2022

The NUJ’s BMC has applauded members and other journalists who have covered this year’s festival of Sinterklaas, by placing the ‘black face’ portrayal within a wider context of racist stereotypes.

The annual festival, which is celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, often includes the character Zwarte Piet who is traditionally portrayed in blackface, with exaggerated lips and gold earrings. The character is an invention from the mid- 1800s when the Netherlands was deeply involved in the transatlantic slave trade.

Public events of the character have involved protests from anti-racism demonstrators, as well as counter demonstrations by white supremacists making racist chants and Nazi salutes. Journalists have received death threats for covering Zwarte Piet.

The NUJ’s code of conduct states journalists should not produce material “likely to lead to hatred or discrimination” on the grounds of, among other things, “a person’s race, colour, creed”, and the NUJ’s Race Reporting Guidelines says journalists  “should not originate material which encourages discrimination on the grounds of race or colour”.

Tony Adams, chair of the Black Members’ Council said:

“We support and congratulate those journalists who have this year challenged the Zwarte Piet portrayal, and who have reported by placing it into a wider context of racist stereotyping and oppression. Black face and racism have no place in a modern society, and we will continue to call it out for the disgrace that it is.

“The NUJ BMC encourages colleagues across the media profession and key stakeholders to strive to implement best practice for journalists, including the NUJ’s code of conduct and Race Reporting Guide.”

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