Helen Suzman Foundation brings case against SABC

Johannesburg - The Helen Suzman Foundation has launched an urgent court bid to stop the SABC from implementing its decision to censor reporting of protests.

The application is against the SABC, its board, COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, the HSF said in a statement on Monday. 

It would be heard in the High Court in Pretoria. The provisional court date is July 29, but it could be moved forward pending the availability of lawyers.

"It is impermissible for the SABC to distort or refuse to cover important news, as a result of political partisanship or otherwise.

"Very worryingly, it appears that this censorship is politically motivated."

The HSF wanted to halt implementation of Motsoeneng’s decision, pending the final determination of review proceedings it had launched, or the outcome of the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa) hearing into the matter. The SOS coalition and Media Monitoring Africa brought a complaint to Icasa.

"The HSF seeks wide-ranging relief on an urgent basis, suspending the implementation of the SABC's policy and practice not to cover violent and other protests, as well as relief preventing the SABC from adopting or implementing any censorship policy which would be contrary to the mandate of the public broadcaster," the foundation said.

It said the SABC, as a public broadcaster, was obligated to cover events of national and public importance. These included political protests and news which might portray the Presidency or any political party in a negative light.

The HSF said it believed in an open and democratic society, the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, a free press, and the ability to receive information freely.

"Censorship, by the public broadcaster no less, strikes at the very heart of these rights, and undermines and erodes our constitutional democracy," it said.

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