SABC interdict could affect axed staff - foundation

2016-07-20 15:17

Pretoria - The interdict preventing the SABC from censoring coverage of protests could affect those employees the broadcaster had fired, the Helen Suzman Foundation said on Wednesday. 

The order, on which the SABC and HSF agreed to in the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday morning, could be used by the fired SABC employees in the Labour Court, the foundation’s director Francis Antonie said outside the court.

"Strategically, this is the best thing to happen. This order is being given to Solidarity's advocate Steven Budlender,”"he told reporters after proceedings. 

He said SABC journalists were fired specifically because of their opposition to the broadcaster’s policy of not broadcasting footage of violent protests. 

Four of those journalists, represented by trade union Solidarity, would appear in the Labour Court on Thursday. 

"We are very pleased with the outcome. The SABC has conceded all our arguments and without any argument in court," Antonie said about the interdict.

'It cannot censor the news'

He said the SABC’s lawyers possibly saw the HSF's case and decided to concede and accept the interdict, rather than have Judge John Murphy delve deeper into the matter and find against the broadcaster. 

"Crucially, the editorial policy of the SABC has been unlawful in terms of the Constitution and in terms of the Bill of Rights and in terms of the Broadcasting Act," Antonie said. 

"Obviously, the SABC must have some editorial independence, but it cannot censor the news. 

"We have to keep on monitoring what the SABC is doing to ensure the SABC continues to abide by the interdict. It has been a fantastic victory, not only for the Helen Suzman Foundation, but also for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

The interdict was Part A of the application, pending the Constitutional Court hearing about the lawfulness of the SABC's decision.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said he could not comment on the practical effect of the order.  

"I can't comment any further, except to say that we have agreed. There is an agreement between all the parties around this issue, and, like I said, we have just finished court and our lawyers will then take us through the whole process so that we then interpret it."

When asked about the fired SABC reporters, he repeated his previous comments that it was a matter between an employer and its employees. 

"To other people it might be seen as a collective of people, but to us they are just employees, and it will be dealt with in terms of the relationship between the employer and employee."

The SABC this week sacked eight journalists for disagreeing with a decision to censor coverage of protests. It did so before the disciplinary cases against some of them had been concluded.

'I can't remain silent anymore'

Seven SABC reporters were fired this week. The eighth was freelance journalist Vuyo Mvoko, whose contract was terminated.

It emerged on Tuesday that the broadcaster had fired Busisiwe Ntuli, a specialist producer for investigative programme Special Assignment, and Lukhanyo Calata, an SABC journalist in Cape Town. Economics editor Thandeka Gqubule confirmed later that she had also been sacked.

Four others - Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp - were informed of their axing on Monday. These four would approach the Labour Court on Thursday. 

Afrikaans news presenter Ivor Price announced his resignation from the broadcaster on Tuesday.

"I can't remain silent anymore," he said in a statement.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ruled on July 11 that the SABC had to withdraw its resolution, announced in May, to ban showing footage of violent protests.

SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng said after the ruling that no one could tell the SABC what to do and that they would challenge Icasa’s decision in court.



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