Remembering Jeanette Minnie: Lines from Friends and Colleagues
Leon Willems (FPU): Harare, Zimbabwe was the first place where I met Jeanette. It must have been 2010, I guess. She stood out in the discussion, principled, thoughtful and always mindful to steer the discussion back to ensure local ownership and leadership. Many African encounters followed in Johannesburg, Grahamstown, Nairobi, Paris and Stockholm. As someone with a lot of character, she was a good person to meet and share tables with.
Joyce Barnathan (ICFJ): We lost someone special. On a personal level, I always looked forward to having dinner with Jeanette Minnie when we gathered for GFMD meetings during World Press Freedom Day celebrations. I loved to listen to her South African stories about fighting apartheid and standing up for a free press despite the pressures. Lively, passionate, and intensely committed to promoting independent journalism, Jeanette showed up.
Guy Berger (UNESCO): In these times of populism and identity politics, Jeanette’s life provides a welcome rebuttal.
It is this: individuals can break free of scripts, of expectations, of socializations. Each person can become author of his or her identity, transcending what is narrowly handed down to them. And become someone who enriches everyone. It’s possible.
Jesper Højberg & David Lush (IMS): It’s rare for someone to be, on one hand, so principled and committed to a cause and, on the other, so down-to-earth and witty. Jeanette Minnie was such a rarity. During conference smoke breaks, she would debate issues with the same passion and intensity as she did in the meeting room, but invariably ended the discussion with her follow smokers by throwing her head back in throaty guffaws of laughter.
Remzi Lani (Albanian Media Institute): I had met Jeanette Minnie 15 years ago in Copenhagen. She had come in as an expert to assist the Network of Media Centers and Institutes in the Balkans. We became friends from the very first day. Lively, direct, attentive, and full of energy – this was the Jeanette I remember.
Caroline Giraud (GFMD): I have known Jeanette since 2005, at the time of the first GFMD Global conference in Amman. I have then had the privilege to work with her at the GFMD secretariat from 2012. Jeanette was a pillar of the Africa caucus or “AFMD”, she knew all the important experts and activists in the region, who to invite, who is a good speaker and so on.
Karabo Rajuili (amaBhungane): I met Jeanette just over two years ago through our shared activism in the Right2Know campaign – a civil society lobby group championing media and access to information in South Africa.
Jeanette’s unassuming manner at the time belied the years of experience and reservoir of knowledge she was in the media development sector.
Bettina Peters (Thomson Foundation) & Aidan White (Ethical Journalism Network): Jeanette Minnie earned her reputation as a fighter for the rights of journalists in the teeth of the struggle for racial equality in South Africa. We first got to know her in the dying days of apartheid and the period after 1994 when, as one of the leaders of the South African Union of Journalists (SAUJ), a predominantly white organisation, she was among those striving for reform and the creation of a unified, non-racial union of journalists.
Hendrik Bussiek (African Free Press): It’s hard to be an editor; hard and lonely. Having a like-minded and trusted comrade-in-arms really makes all the difference. I know I was very lucky to have Jeanette.