The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) has objected to
the SABC’s decision to limit the broadcasting of protests on grounds that the
destruction of public property will fuel public violence.
“The SABC has a huge viewership. Many people rely on it and will be
left poorer if the SABC decides not to give the full story,” Sanef chairperson,
Mpumelelo Mkhabela, said.
“If anything, they should focus on better journalism than seeking
to censor images.”
This follows the SABC’s decision to no longer broadcast footage of
people destroying public property during protests.
The public broadcaster announced its decision last night, saying it
condemned destructive behaviour and will no longer publicise it. The decision
would be implemented with immediate effect.
The decision has been frowned upon by interest groups calling the
move propagandist and another tactic to censor the media.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) has also
echoed similar sentiments saying that violence and the destruction of property
were sometimes part of the story when protests happened.
“Ignoring the reality of protest will not make the fundamental
motivations for it go away. [The] SABC’s apparent unwillingness to trust
ordinary viewers to interpret images of protest for themselves is unfortunate,”
said executive director, Stuart Wilson.
The SABC, however, viewed its new stance as a bold decision saying
it was their “responsibility to educate citizens”.
“When people see the footage of themselves doing that on public
television, they encourage other people in other communities to think that for
them to get the attention from us they need to do the same,” SABC spokesperson
Kaizer Kganyago said.
“We are not censoring. We are not, as a public broadcaster, going
to encourage such deeds,” he said emphatically.
The SABC further called on other media houses to stand in
solidarity with its decision and not cover violent protests.
Mkhabela said although the public broadcaster was entitled to call
for a backing, it would be asking media houses to do the wrong thing.
“That’s actually asking for a total shutdown; you’re asking for
people to rely on other media. Should our people now read stories told by
foreigners? Must people turn to smartphones?”
The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) also expressed its concerns about the
“We are highly dismayed. This is a form of self-censorship and it’s
unjustifiable. As a national broadcaster, the SABC is mandated to broadcast the
realities of everyday South African lives. Protests, violence or otherwise are
our everyday reality,” said R2K’s Busi Mtabane.
“The right to protest is under threat in South Africa. This is one
of many ways in which the government is trying to silence any dissenting voices.
Most protests are non-violent but it just happens that only those who turn
violent get prominent media coverage,” she added.
The Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of communications‚
Phumzile Van Damme, released a statement saying it was an absurd decision which
was “a result of the new SABC editorial policy approved in secret by Minister of
Communications, Faith Muthambi, and the SABC Board in February this year”.
“Editorial decisions should be made by news editors‚ and not
politically appointed management‚ in order to insulate news decisions from any
commercial or political considerations,” she said.
SANEF held a brief discussion earlier today where they decided a
way forward regarding the SABC’s statement.
“We’re trying to understand the context of the decision taken by
the SABC and plan to put forward an appeal for them to reconsider,” Mkhabela
Right2Know has also vowed to take a form of action against the
In the meantime, they’re calling on journalists, especially SABC
workers, to put pressure on management “to reverse this unconstitutional
decision,” Mtabane said.
“Community media should also pull up their socks and make sure that
community news are given first preference,” she added.
The DA has said it is in the process of considering its legal
options following the announcement.
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The EFF has sent a legal letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office, demanding that the lockdown regulations be relaxed to allow political gatherings in compliance with all Covid-19 protocols. The party said that regulations prohibit political campaigning and activities in preparation for this year’s local government elections.
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Like church members, political party members should gather