Journalists happy to return to work at SABC but...

2016-07-27 20:25
SABC journalists await the Labour Court judgment. (News24)

SABC journalists await the Labour Court judgment. (News24)

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Johannesburg – Seven of the journalists the SABC fired may return to work on Thursday, after the public broadcaster held talks with them and their union threatened further legal action.

Trade union Solidarity said they issued an ultimatum demanding that Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay, and Jacques Steenkamp be allowed to report for duty by 16:00 on Wednesday.

The SABC on Wednesday morning said it would appeal the Labour Court’s order that it had to reinstate four of the journalists, and would not allow them back into its offices.

The union then threatened to go back to the Labour Court to ask for a compliance order and that the broadcaster be found in contempt of court.

The SABC responded in writing that the journalists could return on Thursday morning. Later on Wednesday, the SABC said it would “not proceed with further legal action” and reinstate all seven of the journalists it fired.

Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said they were disappointed that they had to threaten court action to ensure the SABC complied with Tuesday’s Labour Court ruling.

“The journalists are also relieved that they will now be able to do what they do best – namely to report objectively, especially on the coming local elections,” he said.

They had criticised the broadcaster's policy, announced in May, to no longer show footage of violent protests.‎

Three other SABC journalists who were recently fired, Busisiwe Ntuli, Thandeka Gqubule and Lukhanyo Calata, would argue their cases in the Labour Court on Thursday, however the SABC said that they will be allowed back in their offices as well.

Following the announcement of the journalists being reinstated, the SABC's lawyers said in a letter that they expected the journalists to withdraw their application to the Labour Court.

"We expect your client to withdraw their application to the Labour Court... as this has now become unnecessary," they wrote.

Freelance reporter Vuyo Mvoku filed papers in the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday, asking for an order that the SABC's decision not to "schedule" him constituted a breach of contract.

All eight had applied for direct access to the Constitutional Court to challenge the SABC’s decision to censor protests.

According to one of the journalists, who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, the decision to allow them back to the office was a relief, but also raised concerns.

“I welcome the SABC's decision and I am thankful that management came to their senses, but I have to wonder why the sudden U-turn since earlier this afternoon. They were still of the opinion that we're not welcome. Now we are wondering if we will be left alone to do our work, or if we will be further subject to victimisation?”

The Right2Know campaign staged a sit-in at the SABC’s headquarters in Auckland Park on Wednesday, to protest against the decision to deny the four entry. It condemned what it called the “continuous victimisation” of staff who questioned unethical editorial decisions.

The South African Communist Party congratulated the dismissed journalists for standing up for their rights.

"All the seven journalists were unlawfully dismissed by the SABC’s despotic regime enforcing its unconstitutional editorial edict it decreed on 26 May 2016 to impose censorship on violent protest actions in news reporting," it said in a statement.

Read more on:    sabc  |  media

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