SA editors' forum calls on SABC to remove 'illegal' surveillance clause from employees' contracts

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Reports of interception of communication and surveillance of staff members at the SABC disregard employees' rights, the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has said.
Reports of interception of communication and surveillance of staff members at the SABC disregard employees' rights, the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) has said.
City Press
  • The SA National Editors' Forum says a clause in SABC employees' contracts infringes on their rights.
  • The clause allows the broadcaster to monitor journalists' communication.
  • The organisation has called for the immediate removal of the clause.

"Extremely concerning" and "illegal" were the words which the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) used the describe reports of communication interception and staff surveillance at the SABC.

Following reports that employees' contracts contained a clause that allowed the broadcaster to monitor their communication, the forum said the practice should be "condemned in the strongest terms because it disregarded employees' rights".

"As Sanef, we share the concern of newsroom staff members who say they are now inhibited from pursuing and producing content. There is no newsroom or media employer who would ever like to see confidential and sensitive information from sources exposed, as this would result in a complete breakdown of trust between the journalist and source," the organisation said in a statement.

"Journalists must always strive to protect their sources and if that fails, it means these sources won't be able to interact with any SABC journalist if they know confidential information or their identity can potentially be exposed."

READ | Sanef mourns as journalists succumb to Covid-19

Sanef has called on the management and board of the public broadcaster to immediately remove the clause and to consider the implications associated with its inclusion.

"Those implications are the violation of the Cyber Security Act [and a] lack of privacy [of] journalists whose communication is monitored and intercepted, making it difficult for them to have any private conversations and to interact with their sources," the statement read.

It mentioned further violations, such as media freedom violations and issues relating to the Protection of Personal Information Act, which came into effect at the beginning of last month.

READ | Sanef concerned by political leaders 'interfering in newsroom operations'

Sanef also called for an urgent and full investigation into any intercepted communication.

"As the public broadcaster, the SABC has a responsibility to ensure it carries out its news mandate without fear of staff being monitored and ensuring staff do not work under fearful conditions," the statement read.

The organisation wants to meet with the SABC's management to ensure the issue is resolved.

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