SABC Censorship: ICASA rules SABC violated Broadcasting Act

JULY 11, 2016

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) on Monday ruled that the public broadcaster, the SABC, reverse its decision not to air footage of violence and destruction during protests in its reports is not in line with the Broadcasting Act.

Besides Icasa’s Complaints Committee recommending that the SABC withdraws its decision on the matter retroactively from 3 July, it also said that the broadcaster also has to confirm in writing in seven days that the resolution has indeed been taken as ordered.

Lobby groups, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), SOS Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) complained to Icasa about censorship at the SABC.

Icasa’s acting chair, Rubben Mohlaloga, said that in a submission by the complainants; “It was argued by the complaints legal representative that it’s against the constitution, mainly freedom of expression.”

However, the SABC has said that Icasa has no power to interdict the SABC or force it to reverse its decision.

It added that the Icasa committee can only investigate and make recommendation to the Icasa Council – but that is the extent of it.

“The complainants are like preachers who distort verses for their own ends. Common sense dictates that once people see cameras, they get excited. People don’t reason,” the SABC argued.

The public broadcaster is expected to make a full response this afternoon.

Trade union, Solidarity, following the ruling, asked that all suspensions and disciplinary actions instituted against suspended SABC employees should be withdrawn.

The trade union furthermore called for the immediate suspension of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Chief Operating Officer of the SABC, pending an investigation into his ability to manage the SABC.

According to Solidarity Chief Executive Dr Dirk Hermann, Solidarity welcomes this ruling. “The ruling proves that the SABC, under the guidance of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, did not act within the framework of the Constitution. We therefore request that all charges against the suspended SABC employees be withdrawn and that Hlaudi Motsoeneng be removed from his position as chief operating officer of the SABC immediately, pending an investigation,” Hermann said.

Hermann furthermore added that Icasa’s ruling against the SABC was a victory for the principle of freedom of speech. “This ruling is a victory for the ethical SABC journalists who, despite unlawful instructions and intimidation, stood up for constitutional principles,” Hermann said.

Solidarity announced earlier that it would approach the Constitutional Court to dispute the constitutionality of the suspension of the three SABC journalists, Foeta Krige, Suna Venter and Thandeka Gqubule. Krige, Venter and Gqubule were suspended in June after voicing their objections at a press meeting against the instruction not to report on protests of the Right2Know Campaign against SABC censorship. Solidarity represents all three journalists.