SABC lays complaint against M&G

2009-05-28 18:12

Johannesburg - The SABC on Thursday laid a complaint of theft against the Mail and Guardian, after the newspaper posted a twice-suspended documentary on its website.

"The SABC has decided to report the matter to the police and will allow the law to take its course," said SABC spokesperson Kaiser Kganyago.

"[The Mail and Guardian] got the uncut version that was stolen from us."

Inspector Xoli Mbele of the SA Police Service confirmed the SABC had laid a complaint of theft at Brixton police station in Johannesburg.

"The action by Mail and Guardian online to publish unlawfully obtained material is viewed as unprofessional and undermining the public broadcaster and the public at large."


M&G editor Nic Dawes defended his newspaper's posting of the website.

"[They've] accused us of being unprofessional...We think [posting the documentary] is precisely what professional journalists do, to find sensitive information and publish it in the public interest," said Dawes.

"In this age of the internet, the kind of retrograde censorship practised at the SABC is impossible."

On Wednesday, the M&G posted a <i>Special Assignment</i> documentary on political satire featuring cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, who writes under the pen-name Zapiro, on its website.

Internal processes 'not complete'

The documentary was meant to be aired on SABC on Tuesday, but was suspended for the second time.

Kganyago said at the time this was "due to internal processes not being completed".

The SABC has been accused of censorship and of suspending the documentary for political reasons.

Kganyago claimed the posting of the documentary on the M&G's website was vindication that the SABC had not been acting with ulterior motives.

"They've said that we were hiding this [documentary]," said Kganyago.

"Now that they've seen it, what were we hiding?"

Won't attempt interdict

Kganyago said the SABC would not attempt to get an interdict against the M&G.

"That is what they were expecting us to do but we are not getting an interdict," said Kganyago.

Dawes confirmed that no interdict had been received by the Mail and Guardian.

"I don't know if it's because they can't afford to pay their lawyers or because they're worried about bad publicity," said Dawes.

Dawes suggested that by filing a criminal complaint, attention might focus on the police while providing the SABC with some distance from an investigation.

However, Kganyago promised that other court actions were being explored.

He said the documentary was SABC property and the broadcaster could sue for damages incurred by financial loss.

"We are doing no commercial damage to the SABC," said Dawes.

"We all believe copyright is valuable but in this case there is a public interest in knowing the reasons why the SABC did not broadcast the episode."

In the 24 hours since it has been posted to the website, the documentary has been viewed over 17 000 times, said M&G online technical manager Jason Norwood-Young.