SABC news staff revolt with united ‘blackout’

2016-07-23 10:47

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Cape Town – SABC news journalists, in an open revolt against boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng, donned black on Friday to show their support for their fired #SABC8 colleagues and to protest against the national broadcaster's censorship policies.

The "blackout" was organised without a paper trail and with such secrecy that it caught SABC bigwigs and viewers alike by surprise.

Wearing black was a resolute show of strength by SABC staffers to show their open defiance of the public broadcaster's Draconian policies and newsroom interference the last few months.

The on-air "blackout" on SABC News and the SABC's various TV news bulletins was however primarily done to show their united support for the eight SABC journalists who were suspended, then fired for voicing concern over chief operating officer COO Motsoeneng's censorship orders.

Four of the eight appeared in the Labour Court on Friday afternoon.

From junior to senior SABC reporters and producers to anchors, the SABC news staff sent a powerful and very clear message to SABC management and South Africa that they're tired of intimidation in their radio and TV newsrooms and the misguided news censorship policy that was unilaterally imposed on SABC journalists on May 26.

Since no SABC staffers openly talked about why they're suddenly all dressed the same, and with a large number of SABC journalists and anchors who showed unspoken solidarity by "co-incidentally" wearing black, the SABC's acting CEO James Aguma and Motsoeneng won't be able to suspend or fire, or take them all off the air for their "blackout" protest.

If SABC management suspended or took steps against every SABC staffer who "happened" to wear black on Friday the SABC's television news division, its various TV news bulletins and its SABC News (DStv 404) channel would literally grind to a halt and implode.

The "blackout" was organised after SABC executives like Motsoeneng and SABC board members, SABC chairperson Obert Maguvhe and Aaron Tshidzumba at the last recent SABC media conference on July 11 told the media that there's no crisis at the SABC since the only time there would be a crisis would be when there's a blackout of the SABC's broadcast signals and the SABC's TV channels not being on air.

Aaron Tshidzumba.who slammed South Africa's print media "for lying to the public" about the crisis-riddled public broadcaster said: "What crisis is there? I never saw SABC off air. Why you telling this company is in crisis? If Eskom is on crisis, there's what? load-shedding. So if the SABC is in crisis, we must be off air. Have you ever seen that off-air?"

On Friday, without saying anything, SABC news staff decided to create a symbolic "blackout" to send a silent insider message from Auckland Park that they feel the SABC indeed is in crisis and that they all support their fired colleagues.

From Manas to Mohlaou

The SABC "blackout" started early in the morning with the Morning Live anchor Leanne Manas in a black jacket doing an outside broadcast.

The dressed-in-black protest carried on throughout the entire day on all the SABC's various TV news bulletins across all its channels, and on the SABC News channel where reporter after reporter and anchors dressed in unified black showed unity until just before the channel ended its live coverage of the day after 23:00 with reporter Tumaole Mohlaou as the last one appearing dressed in black on Your World.

The Labour Court heard the case of four of the eight fired SABC journalists – Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp – and is expected to deliver judgment on either Monday or Tuesday.

The other reporters who were fired this week include Thandeka Gqubule, Busisiwe Ntuli and Lukhanyo Calata with SABC contributing editor Vuyo Mvoko who was told his freelance contract won't be renewed and who is also taking the SABC to court.

Read more on:    sabc  |  media

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