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Government stands by its position that eNews channel “censored itself” by not showing advocate Gcina Malindi breaking down in court, spokesman Jimmy Manyi said on Friday.
“Government has noted eNews' opportunistic and disingenuous call for the retraction of the statement issued by GCIS (Government Communication and Information System) yesterday, with regards to censoring the visuals that show the deep pain and emotion expressed by advocate Gcina Malindi,” he said in a statement.
Malindi broke down in the High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday while arguing for the ANC's application to have Brett Murray's “The Spear” painting removed from public display. It depicts President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.
Government had argued that not showing the footage took away a chance too see the “culmination of the sentiment of humiliation and denigration of the dignity of President Jacob Zuma, his office and the African culture that is shared by millions of South Africans”.
He said government was also disappointed that Judge Neels Claassen was given incorrect information that the clip was broadcast on eNews, when it fact it was never shown.
When Malindi returned to court, Claassen ordered that footage of the incident not be shown.
“It has been brought to the court's notice that the portion where the ANC and Zuma's advocate Gcina Malindi broke down has been televised. And, as a full court, we are of the view that should not be further televised,” Claassen said.
Manyi said: “In light of this, government stands by its position that eNews indeed did censor the coverage ahead of the judge's decision. GCIS will however respect the decision of the judge.”
Shortly after the adjournment to allow Malindi to compose himself, Manyi issued a statement saying government believed e.tv was biased and had failed to broadcast a true reflection of the court proceedings.
eNews later explained they had previously been criticised by the judiciary for airing sensational material unrelated to matters being argued.
“Firstly, eNews respects the rule of law. Advocate Malindi’s breakdown was unexpected and caught our team off-guard. The decision was taken not to broadcast the clip until we had clarity from the judges,” group head of news Patrick Conroy said.
It was mindful that the court might have taken a dim view of this being broadcast, regardless of editorial opinion.
“What the Government Communication and Information System fails to recognise is that normal editorial rules do not apply when filming in court. There are judicial sensitivities we must be mindful of and respect,” Conroy said. – Sapa