Staff afraid of losing their jobs – SABC journalist

2016-06-28 06:51

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Cape Town – The climate at the public broadcaster has left many journalists feeling stressed and fearing for their jobs, an SABC journalist said on Monday.

Staff were generally confused and unhappy about recent happenings at the broadcaster, the journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told News24.

Acting group CEO Jimi Matthews resigned on Monday. Three senior staff members were suspended last week.

“Well, following the suspension of our three colleagues, a lot of the staff are just unhappy, and some are afraid of losing their jobs,” the journalist said.

“They’re stressed out, their integrity’s being questioned. When new decisions are made, it doesn’t come to us. It gets put out to the media, and we’re just expected to comply.”

The journalist said the three staff members who were suspended last week had simply objected to a decision, taken during an editorial meeting, to not cover the Right2Know’s protest outside the SABC’s Auckland Park head office. They however did not defy the decision.

“That was enough to get them suspended,” the source said.

Censorship 'alive and well’

Three civil groups meanwhile criticised the SABC for policies they said amounted to censorship. They welcomed Matthews’s resignation.

Media Monitoring Africa, the Freedom of Expression Institute, and the Save Our SABC Coalition have criticised COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s decision not to air visuals of public property being destroyed during protests.

“As we explained to Mr Motsoeneng on Friday, it’s never too late to do the right thing,” they said in a joint statement.

“Sadly, in that context Mr Motsoeneng declined to do the right thing and we all watched on in horror and cringed as the SABC's legal team put forward shallow, unsubstantiated and at times nonsensical arguments, including admitting that the SABC COO doesn’t believe in scientific research.”

They were referring to Icasa’s public hearing to discuss Motsoeneng’s decision, held on Friday. The SABC had no empirical evidence to back up Motsoeneng’s claim that airing such visuals would incite others to commit violence, the broadcaster’s lawyer, Bantubonke Tokota, said at the hearing.

The SABC was banning content and stories, and preventing its employees from commenting on political developments on air, the groups said their sources had told them.

“What is clear from Jimi Matthews's letter is that there is truth to the reports of a serious clamp-down on the state-owned, national public broadcaster, and a deliberate misinformation campaign the likes of which we haven’t seen since under the apartheid era.”

The three groups called for the SABC board to immediately:

- Reverse editorial decisions;

- Tell all SABC staff to adhere to the Broadcasting Act;

- Launch a public investigation into the allegations made in Matthews’s letter; and

- Take steps to fire Motsoeneng. They said he was the singular cause of the rot at the SABC.

They called on Parliament's communications portfolio committee to intervene.

Read more on:    sabc  |  jimi matthews  |  cape town  |  media

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