The muzzling of three independent political journalists by SABC on Tuesday night has once again raised questions about the broadcaster’s impartiality.
Sunday Times political editor Sthembiso Msomi said the canning of the show, which caused great embarrassment to Metro FM talk host Sakina Kamwendo, was “shocking” and did not make sense.
He, Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli and Andrew England, the Financial Mail’s SA bureau chief, were due to be guest speakers on Kamwendo’s show.
“We were not there to discuss the SABC, the ANC or anything directly political.
“It was about the media coverage around Mangaung. It was to be a debate offering introspection of coverage ahead of, and during the conference,” Msomi said.
He was puzzled as to why the show was pulled, because he had often been invited by other SABC stations to speak about politics, he said.
“Sakina invited us herself. I believe she has the right to invite whoever she wants to. We were due on at 8pm, but just before we were about to go on, we saw the producer, in the studio, on his cellphone and he was speaking for a long time.
“He then came to ask us our names, while still on the phone, and then disappeared. We then saw him talking to Sakina, who was handed the phone. They were still inside the studio, so we don’t know who they were talking to, but clearly there was an argument as she appeared agitated,” he said.
Kamwendo then came out and said she had been instructed by “someone higher” that the show couldn’t continue.
She did not say who it was.
Kamwendo played music for 15 minutes while this was going on.
Later, she was heard to be crying on air when she announced that the she was not going to have the journalists discussing Mangaung any more, and opened the line for calls.
On Wednesday, the ANC Youth League said that the SABC owed the people of South Africa an explanation as to “why they would find it correct to gag anybody's view on a matter of national importance”.
“Despite who gave these tragic orders or for what purpose, censorship of views is contrary to the rights of freedom of expression enshrined in our Constitution,” the youth league said in a statement.
It accused the SABC of becoming “a ridiculous pawn in the political theatre they are expected to impartially report on”.
“South Africans can only conclude that there is political interference at play driven by a powerful nameless group desperate to deliver this country to dictatorship and elements of despots,” the ANCYL said.
“We once again call upon the SABC to exercise fair and objective reporting as we advance to Mangaung.”
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago declined to comment on Tuesday night and was not available on his phone on Wednesday morning.
The Star, IOL