Crimes against journalism stop today - suspended SABC journalists

2016-07-01 16:06
Foeta Krige, Thandeka Gqubule, Suna Venter lead the march to the Constitutional Court. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

Foeta Krige, Thandeka Gqubule, Suna Venter lead the march to the Constitutional Court. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - The three suspended SABC journalists had to speak out about their concerns with the public broadcaster's editorial policies, they said on Friday.

SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule said although they loved their jobs, they could no longer stay silent.

"We don't like being here. We would rather be in the newsroom doing our jobs," Gqubule said at Friday’s demonstration against recent editorial developments.

"We don't want to be here but we have to be here, we have no choice."

Gqubule was speaking on behalf of two other colleagues, Foeta Krige and Suna Venter, who, like her, were served with suspension letters last week.

The three were served with the letters last week for allegedly "distancing" themselves from an order. They disagreed with an instruction during a diary conference not to cover the Right2Know campaign's protest against censorship at the public broadcaster earlier that week.

Journalists sanctioned for 'liaising with media'

A disciplinary hearing into their suspension was held on Friday morning and was postponed until next week.

On Monday, acting group CEO Jimi Matthews announced his resignation. He said the environment at the public broadcaster was "corrosive" and that recent changes were wrong.

On Thursday, the SABC charged another three journalists for "liaising with the media" without authorisation from their bosses.

The three wrote a letter to COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng over the weekend, expressing their dissatisfaction with how operations had been managed at the SABC over the last few weeks.

On Friday, following a silent march led by the SABC staff members, Gqubule said there was a trend at the broadcaster of eroding the law. This needed to be addressed.

"None of us can say we were not complicit. We understand how Jimi [Matthews] feels. All these minor crimes against the profession, they stop today.

Freedom of expression

"My colleagues and I have decided we can't do this silently. We needed to tell our colleagues in the industry," Gqubule said.

A petition with 5 000 signatures was handed to Constitutional Court manager Eddie Brewis.

"We've come to pray upon the court to hear our pleas. Our freedom of expression rights have been continually violated by our public broadcaster.

"We are here to pray that the court perhaps consider hearing our matter directly because… the violation of [our mandate] is deeply undemocratic and of most concern to us," Gqubule said.

About 100 people had gathered outside the SABC from as 08:00 on Friday in support of the SABC staff members whose hearings were taking place.

They lined Henley Road dressed in black. Some had their mouths taped shut and others held up posters calling for Motsoeneng to leave the SABC.

Once the hearings were completed, the group embarked on a silent march to the Constitutional Court. Some union leaders and staff representatives, including former Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi, stayed behind to meet Motsoeneng.

Read more on:    sabc  |  jimi matthews  |  media

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