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SABC blacklisting journos: Hearing begins

2012-11-12 10:17
 
Cape Town – A new hearing will start on Monday and continue all week at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (Icasa) head office in Sandton, reopening serious allegations of the blacklisting of journalists and commentators by the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

The new hearing will again cast a very harsh spotlight on the SABC and how the struggling public broadcaster allegedly manipulated its news coverage through censorship by pre-selecting who the SABC will not allow on the broadcaster's airwaves.

The new hearing has been ordered by the court after Icasa's Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) in June 2009 dismissed a case which was brought by the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) in 2007.

In January 2011, the South Gauteng High Court told Icasa that the broadcasting regulator's decision to toss the case was "fundamentally flawed" and that Icasa must rehear the case.

"If [Icasa wrong interpretation not to hear the case] is correct," the High Court said, "it would mean that the SABC may with impunity manipulate and distort the preparation of its news and current affairs coverage and publicly lie about it when they are caught out having done so."

Biased news coverage

The Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS), a massive public pressure group including trade groups, producers, unions and federations within the South African TV industry as well as academia and institutes concerned about the SABC, said the SOS is "delighted that the matter is finally being addressed as it ought to have been from the very onset".

The SOS said it hopes that "a speedy and decisive resolution to the case is reached and that the SABC is held to account for violating not only its own editorial policies, but its licence conditions and Charter".

The new hearing comes as the SABC has been battered by public protests the past few months, accusing the public broadcaster of biased news coverage.

The SABC's head of news and current affairs, Phil Molefe, has also been on "special leave" for months now awaiting a constantly postponed disciplinary hearing allegedly involving SABC news diaries.

The SABC has also been accused of banning and limiting coverage of the expelled former ANC Youth leader Julius Malema in recent months.

'Nkandlagate' rules

Meanwhile, the acting head of news Jimi Matthews ordered SABC news staff to only refer to the growing Nkandlagate scandal surrounding president Jacob Zuma's KwaZulu-Natal compound in a specific way in SABC news reports.

Words such as "Nkandlagate" and "Zumaville" have reportedly been banned by the SABC, while "compound" has been labelled as racist.

Furthermore, the SABC's last announced start date of early September for the public broadcaster's other stillborn news project – its 24-hour TV news channel the SABC is trying to launch on DStv with the help of millions of rands from MultiChoice – has again come and gone with further public embarrassment for the broadcaster's news and management executives.

"Sadly the issues of blacklisting and censorship raised by this complaint remain as burningly relevant today as when they were first raised in 2006," says the SOS.

The Icasa hearing this week will reopen the SABC Blacklisting crisis which started when the then-SAfm radio presenter John Perlman said on SABC radio in 2006, following a newspaper article which the SABC denied, that the SABC had, and made use of, a Blacklist.

The SABC's then-CEO Dali Mpofu ordered the Sisulu Commission of Enquiry to investigate, but he later backtracked and released only a sanitised version. After the full version was leaked, the FXI decided to take the case to Icasa.

With this week's new Icasa hearing on the SABC's alleged blacklisting practises, the SOS says "to restore faith in the SABC's news coverage, we call on the SABC board, CEO and the acting head of news to publicly commit to news coverage that is hard-hitting, covers all points of view and ultimately holds those in positions of power to account."

- Channel24

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