SA editors slam SABC decision to ban coverage of violent protests

Johannesburg - The SABC's decision not to broadcast footage of the destruction of property during news bulletins was nothing less than censorship, the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) said on Monday.

Read the full statement below:

The announcement by the SABC that it would henceforth not broadcast footage of "destruction of property" during news bulletins is unfortunate and shocking. Whilst it is every media house's prerogative to formulate editorial policy about what to publish or broadcast, such policy, in line with the public mandate of media, has to be in the public interest.

Thus, many media houses would not publish or broadcast pictures and footage of dead bodies or what the Broadcast Complaints Commission of SA calls "gratuitous violence". However, the stand taken by the SABC amounts to censorship and must be condemned.

No right-thinking person would support the destruction of public facilities in the name of protest, and all media houses in this country have condemned such vandalism, but reporting on such acts in their fullest possible way by the media allows South Africans to know what is happening. What the SABC has decided to do is sanitise the news and [it] is a disservice to the South African public.

This country has been here before, when the apartheid regime blamed media and particularly TV cameras for the spreading nationwide uprisings of the time. It ended with the police barring journalists from areas where protests were taking place. A picture of false peace was being manufactured. The SABC followed the government dictate at the time.

They failed then to mislead and hide information as people lost all confidence in the news provided by the SABC and instead turned to newspapers and foreign media for a true picture of what was happening. The SABC changed from being the mouthpiece of government when democracy dawned, and this unfortunate decision returns the broadcaster into a past it should not be associated with.

Sanef consulted with the Acting Group CEO Jimmi Matthews and expressed our shock and displeasure at the decision. We also indicated that we believe the decision should be rescinded without delay.

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