World journo body slams SABC for documentary

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has denounced the SABC's "self-censorship" following the public broadcaster's cancellation of a documentary on President Thabo Mbeki.

The IFJ, which represents more than 500 000 journalists in over 110 countries, said calls about such programmes should be left to journalists - not "politically influenced managers".

"This appears to be interference by management in editorial affairs. The public have been denied the opportunity to see an independent and professional portrait of their president and denied the opportunity to make up their own minds," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White.

The SABC had decided not to broadcast a documentary on Mbeki scheduled for screening on May 17 and demanded the producers hand over all materials and not talk to the media.

SABC management claimed they cancelled the broadcast because "it may attract legal action" and they considered the entire documentary "fundamentally tainted".

White said was nonsense.

"SABC management had an informal meeting with the presidency's communications department. This suggests there was a degree of outside interference."

"The IFJ believes the incident raises new fears over the degree of self-censorship at SABC."

"There are real concerns the station's editorial independence is under serious threat," he said.

White said the producers should be allowed to speak. It was unfair for the SABC to comment in the media while the producers could say nothing.

"The IFJ... insists that editorial judgment should have taken precedence over management concerns about provoking a negative response from the president," he said. - Staff Writer




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