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Three more SABC journalists express concern over current situation

Three more SABC journalists express concern over current situation

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has so far yet to comment on a letter addressed to its Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, in which three journalists describe their workplace as having become a “source of derision, despair and criticism from the people that we are fundamentally accountable to”.

According to the document, senior investigative reporter Jacques Steenkamp, SAfm Current Affairs Executive Producer Krivani Pillay and Special Assignment Executive Producer Busisiwe Ntuli said recent developments at the broadcaster has resulted in a “sense of fear, lack of clarity about our journalistic responsibility”, and that “reasons given for these sudden decisions contradict our governing policies and legislation”.

“As journalists having to operationalise the policies of this public institution, which is important for the promotion of our democracy, we feel aggrieved that the image of our institution and our journalistic integrity continues to be compromised by unconstitutional pronouncements that erode the credibility of the SABC and the journalistic integrity of all of us who work for it,” the document said.

The trio also states it views the recent cancellation of long-running SAfm current affairs show, The Editors, as censorship “unless reasonable and professional explanations can be advanced within the framework of our editorial policy”, and the suspension of Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) Executive Producer Foeta Krige, senior journalist Suna Venter and SABC business editor Thandeka Gqubule as “an act of victimisation”.

In a statement on Friday, the broadcaster announced it had suspended Krige, Venter and Gqubule for allegedly questioning the lack of coverage given to a protest action held by Right2Know (R2K) campaign outside its Auckland Park Offices. The move was subsequently slammed by both the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and R2K.

“We are shocked by the latest pronouncements that fundamentally erode the right of the public to know the whole story about the developments in their communities and to display such stories in a responsible manner, as has been done as per the ICASA and BCCSA requirements,” the letter continues.

“We therefore request an urgent meeting with the COO to gain clarity and resolve the above-indicated matters. Our primary interest is to clarify the confusion and find a lasting solution that will also provide guidelines on all issues editorial”.

The document, dated 26 June, comes hours after Acting CEO, Jimi Matthews, announced he was stepping down with immediate effect “as the prevailing corrosive atmosphere has impacted negatively on my moral judgement and has made me complicit in many decision which I am not proud of”.

“For many months I have compromised the values that I hold dear under the mistaken belief that I could be more effective inside the SABC than outside, passing comment from the side-lines. What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it,” he said.

Criticism against the SABC has been mounting after Motsoeneng last month stated it would no longer show acts of violent of protests on television, as it could encourage others elsewhere to follow suit.

Last week, the broadcaster received extensive backlash for failing to show the violent protest in Tshwane, while an investigation by weekend newspaper Rapport revealed that Motsoeneng had also barred the writing of any news portraying President Jacob Zuma in a bad light.