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The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in SA was defamed in a Special Assignment programme on churches involved in crime, the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA (BCCSA) ruled on Wednesday.
“The church was defamed,” tribunal chairman Jacobus van Rooyen said.
Visual inserts that depicted the church's buildings and insignia were broadcast during the SABC's investigative programme in May for an episode titled ‘Praise the Drug Lord’.
Van Rooyen said the programme reported on crime and clergy involved in money laundering, drug trading, and non-compliance with South African laws.
“Neither the church nor any of its clergy are mentioned by name in the programme, and no verbal link is drawn between the church and the illegal conduct reported in the programme,” said Van Rooyen.
“However, a number of visual inserts show recognisable premises of the church that are used for worship, and the heart/dove symbol and name of the church are clearly visible in at least one instance.”
The church's representatives told the BCCSA that even though there was no verbal mention of them, they felt the images nevertheless linked the church to the subject matter of crime.
In his judgment, Van Rooyen found: “There is no evidence before us that the church is, or has ever been, involved in crime, and SABC3 should therefore have excluded the visuals.”
He said the defamation was due to the SABC's negligence. SABC3 was ordered to broadcast a statement explaining the judgment in the church's favour during the first five minutes of a Special Assignment programme before the end of October. - Sapa