Pulling Zapiro a ‘case of balance’

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Hlaudi Motsoeneng DONE THE STAR SABC acting chief officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng said that the interview with Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, would not have been fair and balanced because it did not feature anyone with an opposing view. Photo: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Johannesburg - An SABC interview with celebrated cartoonist Zapiro was pulled because it was not “fair and balanced”, says acting SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, adding “there will be consequences” for employees who repeat the mistake.

Motsoeneng said on Thursday that the interview with Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, would not have been fair and balanced because it did not feature anyone with an opposing view.

Zapiro, who had been included in a pre-recorded interview for the SABC 3 programme Interface, was later told it would not be aired.

“What we are saying to our staff is that, when you have people on your show, make sure the story is balanced,” Motsoeneng said.

Asked whether the public should be concerned about the incidents at the SABC, Motsoeneng said: “No, the public should be happy, we are taking responsibility.”

He rejected speculation that politics had influenced the broadcaster’s approach to news. He said the decision not to air the Zapiro interview was “a decision of the SABC and we are sticking to it”.

The broadcaster’s editorial policy, which is guided by the Broadcasting Act, says: “When an event of national importance is of a party political nature, editorial staff are to ensure that the SABC policies on objectivity, accuracy, fairness, impartiality and balance are adhered to.”

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said the interference in content, especially news, by top SABC officials such as Motsoeneng was “inappropriate”.

“Where is the board on this issue?”

The chairman of Parliament’s oversight committee on communications, ANC MP Sikhumbuzo Kholwane, said the only recourse available to the committee at the moment was to “ask the SABC what is happening”.

DA MP Marian Shinn called on the SABC board to “publicly confirm or deny [its] support for the clampdown on political expression at the public broadcaster led by acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng”.

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