MEDIA groups are taking on the SABC over its decision not to show violent protests on its screens, and have hinted at taking legal action against the public broadcaster.
The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), Media Monitoring Africa and Save Our SABC Coalition (SOS) said yesterday they would fight this decision.
William Bird, of Media Monitoring Africa, said the first step was to get clarity on the actual decision.
He said there were three different versions provided by the SABC, including its chief operating officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng, spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago and the SABC statement.
Kganyago said they were willing to meet the media groups and explain the decision.
Bird said in taking a blanket decision like this, the SABC would make it difficult for its journalists to decide what to show on TV bulletins.
He said there was no evidence violent protests are copied by communities.
However, it would be important to establish how the decision was taken.
“What needs to happen is that people need to look at their legal options,” said Bird.
Head of the law clinic at FXI, Sheniece Linderboom, said they were not happy and would want to engage the SABC on the matter.
“Besides the procedural points, whether a decision like this is in line with the editorial policy of the SABC and the SABC charter, we would engage with the SABC on this,” said Linderboom.
She said what needed to be understood was that service delivery protests were the last resort by communities after failing to get a response from the authorities. She said the FXI does engage communities and the fact the SABC would not show violent protests would not stop communities from protesting.
“As an organisation we don’t condone violence, but we do acknowledge it’s a reality for South Africans.”
She said they would engage the SABC and communications regulator Icasa on the matter.
Kate Skinner, of SOS, said this was a problematic decision and service delivery protests were important to understand what is happening in the country.
She said the new editorial policy of the SABC needs to be looked into.
She added that there was no public consultation process when this new editorial policy was adopted by the SABC.
“If you look at the Broadcasting Act and section 16 of the constitution, which is about freedom of expression, the decisions by the SABC Coo are not in line with the act and the constitution,” said Skinner. She reminded the SABC it was not a state broadcaster but a public broadcaster.
Skinner called for action by civil society against this decision. SOS is taking the SABC’s editorial policy to Icasa.
Kganyago said there were extensive consultations on its editorial policy across all nine provinces. The issue was about the broadcasting of violent protests.
“We even say in our statement we will continue to cover public protests. The only thing we are not going to put up is the burning or destruction of public property,” he said.