Press club calls for SABC probe

2011-01-26 12:06

The government should urgently appoint a commission of enquiry into the SABC following this week’s court ruling on political interference at the public broadcaster, the National Press Club said today.

“The South African public needs answers and rightfully demands an honest, clean and transparent public broadcaster,” said club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee.

On Monday the high court in Johannesburg handed down judgment on a review of the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa) claim that it did not have jurisdiction over how the SABC made its programmes.

The case was taken to the court by the Freedom of Expression Institute.

Noting that the judgment accused former head of news Snuki Zikalala of “unlawfully manipulating” news items on Zimbabwe’s 2005 elections, and blacklisting certain commentators to silence critical voices, Abramjee said the matter was of “serious concern” and needed to be fully investigated.

“We applaud the court for ordering [Icasa] to reopen its investigation into alleged political interference at the SABC, after an appeal by the Freedom of Expression Institute, but we need more.

“We now need government to appoint a commission of enquiry.”

Zikalala was not immediately available for comment, but Talk Radio 702 reported him as saying he still had to read the judgment before commenting.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA said the judgment was a victory for the working class.

It said that during Zikalala’s time, stories on matters raised by either their union mother body the Congress of SA Trade Unions or the SA Communist Party that were deemed critical of the economic policies of former president Thabo Mbeki, were thrown out.

Former SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu suspended Zikalala but Mpofu was then suspended for suspending Zikalala.

Both have since left the corporation. After a brief stint with a new chief executive and board, the broadcaster is once again in the process of appointing a new board and chief executive.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said the SABC was not involved in the court case, so it would not be considering an appeal against the ruling.

However, it would study the judgment and decide how to proceed.

A spokesperson for Icasa was not immediately available to comment.

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