Editors' forum finds SABC crippled by 'anger, fear and frustration'

SABC headquarters in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images)
SABC headquarters in Johannesburg. (Gallo Images)

The South African National Editor's Forum (Sanef) has noted the "chilling" findings as well as the recommendations emanating from a lengthy investigation into interference in the decision-making at the SABC. 

On Monday, chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase said in a statement the forum noted the "chilling" findings that the public broadcaster had suffered from the "capricious use of authority and power to terrorise staff and to deflect the corporation from its mandate and it's editorial policies" as noted in the report.

The inquiry panel also found the organisation was "crippled by anger, fear and frustration".

The report, which was presented by veteran journalist and commission of inquiry chairperson Joe Thloloe, implicated a number of high-ranking staff members and government officials, News24 earlier reported.

ALSO READ: SABC to take disciplinary action against those implicated in editorial interference report

Mahlase said the forum had also noted the finding that "a witch hunt for enforcers will not heal the SABC" and there was no "direct link" found between instructions from ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, and the newsroom.

There was still, however, a concern over Thloloe's utterance that the "spectre of the ANC hovered over the newsroom".

"We thus implore the new custodians of the SABC newsroom to safeguard the public broadcaster from any political, commercial or private interference in the future.

"Concrete mechanisms must be implemented to ensure this," Mahlase added.

ALSO READ: SABC report an important milestone after a painful period - board chairperson

Sanef also further noted the "positive" recommendations made, which included among others that: 

- A news and current affairs advisory committee to advise journalists, editors and producers on editorial issues needs to be created;

- As well as the suggestion that the group executive: news be designated as chairperson of the editorial policy and ethics committee and that this position should report to the group CEO.

"We welcome the recommendation that this committee will become the highest point of upward referral for editorial line managers and that it should uphold the editorial policies and the highest editorial and ethical standards. 

"We also believe that the suggested creation of a news and current affairs advisory committee is positive. We believe that the establishment of these committees will go a long way to maintaining editorial integrity at the public broadcaster and that they will ensure that journalists have a place to go when interference creeps in," Mahlase explained.

In conclusion, Sanef commended the board of the state broadcaster for approving the report and further wished that the implementation of recommendations a success.

"We wish the SABC strength and every success as it takes steps to implement these recommendations. We need the SABC to deal decisively with its past editorial woes," Mahlase concluded.

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