Cape Town - The Methodist Church of Southern Africa has expressed concern about the "alleged media muffling" at the SABC.
Press freedom was a fundamental cornerstone of any democracy, Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa said on Monday.
"Suggestions that this freedom is being compromised are cause for grave concern. The public has a right to free and unfettered news and information, especially from the public broadcaster that is the only source of broadcast media for millions," Siwa said.
This followed SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s decision to no longer air footage of the destruction of property during protests, the suspension of several journalists who had criticised this decision, and the resignation of acting chief executive officer Jimi Matthews last Monday.
Siwa said allegations of self-censoring at the SABC were alarming.
"By its very definition, the public broadcaster should serve the interests of the public, and it is in the interests of the public and public accountability, for them to know the good, the bad and the ugly," he said.
Siwa said the public could not be treated like children who needed to be protected from unsavoury aspects of life, or like an irrational individual who could not be trusted not to imitate what they saw and heard.
"We lived through many years of pain because the media was driven by propaganda and we cannot allow this to happen again; what is happening at the SABC must be investigated and there must be urgent interventions. We must all defend media freedom," he said.
The church called on the SABC’s leadership and the communications ministry to investigate and intervene urgently.