ANC denies meeting with SABC editors was 'bullying'

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ANC Head of Elections Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)
ANC Head of Elections Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images / Sowetan / Veli Nhlapo)

The ANC says it is concerned about a report alleging that it is bullying the embattled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

This, after the City Press reported on Sunday that the party’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, met with the most senior editors of the public broadcaster, including group executive of news Phatiswa Magopeni on Friday, where he is said to have accused the newsroom of a "clampdown" against reportage of ANC election activities.  

Mbalula had reportedly complained about too little coverage in the North West.

However, the newspaper reported that the editors had responded and said the broadcaster had given much airtime to the party during its activities which led up to its manifesto.

The ANC and the broadcaster confirmed that the meeting had taken place, the newspaper reported.

However, the party now said that the report was "alarmist at best and malicious at worst, with the sole intention of projecting the ANC in a negative light".

"The meeting with the SABC on Friday, 1 March 2019, was requested as a one-on-one engagement with Ms Phathiswa Magopeni, the SABC’s Group Executive for news to discuss matters of mutual interest and the broadcaster’s approach to election coverage. However, the meeting turned out to include a number of other editorial personnel," Mbalula said in a statement on Sunday.

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He said the meeting was meant to be a platform where perspectives were shared. Mbalula added that the meeting was necessary following President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement of the May 8 election day. 

"This was meant to be a precursor to a broader meeting being arranged via the Group CEO of the SABC. Similar meetings are being arranged with other broadcasters," he said.

Mbalula denied that any demands were made during the meeting, saying that the party was "dismayed" that a meeting that was meant for a healthy exchange of views and information was perceived as "bullying".

"We view this conduct of leaking a false narrative about a meeting with the public broadcaster as unethical and should be nipped in the bud," he said.

SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu confirmed the meeting saying the broadcaster was willing to meet with stakeholders, including political parties who requested to meet with the broadcaster.

"The SABC will continue to meet with stakeholders including political parties should they express to meet with us. The SABC remains resolute in its quest to providing unrestrained news content to our viewers," Momodu said.

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