DA’s Gauteng premier candidate, Mmusi Maimane. (YouTube)
Johannesburg - The rejection of the DA's adverts by the SABC is an infringement on the freedom of expression, the party's legal team argued on Tuesday.
Steven Budlender, for the DA, said the SABC had rejected one television advert and five radio adverts.
He was speaking in Johannesburg before the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on the DA's complaint against the SABC.
Budlender said the content of the DA's election campaign advertisements is legitimate and should be aired
He said criticising others was the very nature of political debate.
He was responding to one of the grounds the public broadcaster listed as reasons for not airing six of the party's advertisements.
The broadcaster had rejected the party's advertisements on four grounds - one of the adverts incited violence, some gave false allegations about members of other political parties, the Advertising Standards Authority states one product could not attack another to promote itself, and that no advert could attack specific candidates or a person.
Budlender said the public broadcaster's decision affected the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
"The SABC is not a private broadcaster. It is accordingly obliged to fulfil the bill of rights," Budlender said.
"It is owned and controlled by South Africans and must be fair and unbiased."
He said the SABC had an obligation to offer a plurality of views.
"We are 21 days away from a democratic general election. It is an event of monumental significance."
He said half of South Africa's television viewers watched the SABC.
"Which means it is critical that political parties wanting to advertise on the SABC are not barred."
He said of all six adverts, the television ad had attracted the most attention from the SABC.
Ad pulled off air
The DA laid a complaint with Icasa on Saturday after the SABC failed to broadcast its election advertisement.
The "Ayisafani" advert was pulled off the air last week, along with four radio advertisements.
The advert in question shows the DA's Gauteng premier candidate and spokesperson, Mmusi Maimane, standing in front of a mirror talking about the current state of the country.
He says life today is better than it was 20 years ago and gives credit to great leaders who he believes have taken the country forward.
"But since 2008 we've seen President Jacob Zuma's ANC. An ANC that is corrupt. An ANC for the connected few. An ANC that is taking us backwards. An ANC where more than 1.4 million people have lost jobs." Maimane then asks Zuma where the jobs are.
The SABC did not broadcast the advertisement and gave the DA a letter.
In it, SABC acting group CEO Tian Olivier informed the party that it would not be able to broadcast the advert on radio or television as it incited violence.
The SABC said the party could submit an amended version of the advertisement.