Cele's e.tv complaint dismissed
Cape Town - The Broadcasting Complaints Commission has shot down a complaint by national police commissioner Bheki Cele that an e.tv interview with two self-confessed criminals glamorised crime.
"It is the task of a broadcaster in an open and democratic society... to bring to the attention of listeners and viewers the harsh reality of crime in South Africa," a commission tribunal said in findings released on Friday.
Cele's complaint followed e.tv news bulletins on January 15 which included interviews with two men who said they intended to rob tourists during the soccer World Cup.
One of them said that if the police tried to arrest him or use force against him, he would retaliate with force.
The context of the news insert was Cele's repeated instruction to police to use lethal force when confronted with armed criminals.
The insert included footage of Cele saying some criminals were brutal and not human beings.
Cele complained to the commission that the insert incited or glamorised violence, intimidated people, was not balanced, and that he should have been given an opportunity to reply.
However the tribunal, headed by commission chairperson Kobus van Rooyen, said in its ruling that the crooks had been shown to be "the scum of society" and had in no way been glamorised.
"The mere fact that the interviews with self-confessed criminals were granted did not promote or encourage or sanction violence but brought the harsh reality of the criminal mind to the fore," it said.
"The interviews, in fact, gave credence to the words of the national commissioner that such criminals were inhuman."
Viewers had a constitutional right to be informed of "the reality of the criminal mind".
The tribunal said information in the media might be regarded as unpatriotic if it presented an unfavourable image of South Africa in the run-up to the World Cup.
"However, alleged lack of patriotism does not make the information any less permissible," it said.
Cele's counsel had argued that all that the broadcast had achieved was to foster a climate of fear around the cup.
The tribunal ruled that the Intimidation Act was beyond the commission's jurisdiction, but that it was in any case not convinced that the interviews had engendered fear.
It also found that e.tv had offered Cele a right of reply, but that he had chosen to attack the station over the broadcast of the criminals' views, not to comment on the issue of World Cup safety.
After the broadcast, e.tv journalists were subpoenaed to reveal the names of the two men, whose identities were concealed in the broadcast interviews.
The Hawks said they had arrested one of the two and were searching for the other.
Cele had since labelled e.tv "a crime kisser".