Picket against “censorship” at SABC


Ban on covering violent protest is unconstitutional, says Right2Know

Photo of protesters picketing outside SABC offices
Right2Know supporters picketed outside the SABC in Cape Town today. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

Nomacebo Mbayo of Khayelitsha was among about 40 protesters who braved the cold and rainy weather to picket in front of the offices of the South African Broadcasting Corporation in protest against “censorship”.

The protest was organised by Right2Know. Similar protests were held in other cities.

Mbayo, 32, said she was protesting because the decision by SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng that the corporation would not broadcast violence in protests took SA back to the days of apartheid, when a small group of individuals had decided on behalf of everyone else what should be broadcast.

She said South Africans had a legal right to protest. “ If the SABC starts censoring content, that is not the freedom we fought for in South Africa. If our government doesn’t want people to demonstrate, they should satisfy people’s needs and bring necessary services to them.”

Mbayo also said the police should be educated about the right to protest. SA Police Service had tried to prevent the picket earlier, she said. Police claimed the protesters were breaking the law by picketing in front of SABC but they had refused to disperse.

Alex Hotz, 25, said it was problematic that the SABC would not cover protests. She said this would mean that issues like the Marikana massacre, the students’ protests, xenophobia and police brutality would never become public.

Hotz said the SABC should not decide for the public what the public should see.

In a statement, Right2Know said the public broadcaster’s independence was being undermined “by political interference and a management that shows no respect for editorial integrity”.

“In recent times we have seen things go from bad to worse, with the canning of hard-hitting radio and TV programmes such as The Big Debate, On the Record, and The Editors. Similarly, the SABC has gone to extraordinary lengths to suppress documentaries like Project Spear and the highly acclaimed Miners Shot Down, both of which deal with matters of significant public interest.”

“Under the new editorial policy of the SABC, sweeping power to control editorial content has been handed to the incompetent COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who derides critical journalists under him and has openly called for more sunshine journalism. The recent ban on covering violent protests, the ban on reading newspaper headlines on air, and decision not to allow open-line call-ins from listeners, are unconstitutional and in breach of the public broadcaster’s mandate.”

“Hlaudi’s authoritarian stance is a serious threat to our public broadcaster”, said Right2Know. We will not accept the SABC being turned into a state mouthpiece.”

Attempts to get comment from the SABC’s Kaizer Kganyago were unsuccessful. 

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TOPICS:  Freedom of Expression

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