Calls for SABC head of news Phatiswa Magopeni's disciplinary hearing to be open to the media

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SABC head of news, Phathiswa Magopeni.
SABC head of news, Phathiswa Magopeni.
  • The South African National Editors' Forum wants Phathiswa Magopeni's disciplinary hearing to be open to the public.
  • Magopeni is charged with negligence and bringing the public broadcaster into disrepute after Special Assignment aired a show in contravention of a court order. 
  • She has denied any wrongdoing.

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and the Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) want SABC head of news Phathiswa Magopeni's disciplinary hearing to be open to the media.

Lawyers for SANEF and CFE wrote to the chair of the hearing, advocate Nazeer Cassim, to ask that the media be allowed to attend the proceedings.

Cassim had asked the Sanef and CFE legal team to argue the case for openness when the hearing begins on 17 December. 

The SABC refused a Sanef request to open the hearings. 

Magopeni faces disciplinary action for alleged negligence and for bringing the SABC into disrepute after the broadcaster ran an episode of its investigative programme Special Assignment in contravention of a court order.

She has denied wrongdoing, saying the decision to air the show was made by four levels below her. 

"I endeavoured to create a safe space for journalists to practice their craft and serve the country's citizenry independently and impartially and within the prescribed editorial framework," she recently said in a complaint letter to the SABC board.

"With the public political statements being made about me having affected the electoral prospects of the ruling party, I feel extremely unsafe, and I fear for my life. I cannot keep quiet."

READ | Baseless and shameful, says Sanef in response to Mbalula's claims about SABC's election coverage

Magopeni alleged she was being targeted because she resisted attempts by the SABC chair and group CEO to force her to carry an unscheduled interview with President Cyril Ramaphosa during the recent local government election campaign.

Sanef chairperson Sbu Ngalwa, said: "An open and transparent process will not only assist the public to make up its mind on the case, but it will also aid the SABC to dispel the perception that the process is part of a political witch-hunt. 

"Sanef reiterates its respect for the SABC's internal processes and being able to hold staff accountable - hence we are not calling for the disciplinary action to be abandoned, but rather for it to be open to the public as the issues at hand are a matter of great public interest."

CFE executive director, Anton Harber, said: 

Too much is at stake for this to happen behind closed doors. Ms Magopeni has said that she is being hounded out because she has resisted political interference. We need the public to see if this is a return to the days when factional politics dominated the SABC and buried its public service mandate.

News24 contacted the SABC when Magopeni first penned her complaint letter - the broadcaster had no comment on the allegations.

SABC spokesperson Gugu Ntuli said on Tuesday they would not be commenting publicly.

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