Johannesburg - Two SABC employees dismissed on Tuesday have vowed to fight censorship at the broadcaster all the way to the Constitutional Court, and said they would not allow their employer to “deprofessionalise” them.
Busisiwe Ntuli and Thandeka Gqubule were speaking outside the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday, where trade union Solidarity had brought an application to set aside the dismissal of four other SABC employees sacked on Monday. Gqubule was the SABC's economics editor and Ntuli a producer for the current affairs show Special Assignment.
The journalists were speaking to the media after the case was postponed.
Ntuli said that, as professionals, they expected to be allowed to do their jobs without censorship and intimidation.
“So we are not going to be deprofessionalised here at the SABC…this is a fight until the end,” said Gqubule.
The SABC dismissed Suna Venter, Foeta Krige, Jacques Steenkamp and Krivani Pillay on Monday. The bloodletting continued on Tuesday when the state broadcaster fired Ntuli, Gqubule and Cape Town-based journalist Lukhanyo Calat.
The seven were being targeted for a letter they wrote to SABC management, questioning the imposition of a ban on footage of violent protests. The SABC has since conceded in court that the ban was illegal, and was interdicted by the high court in Pretoria on Wednesday from carrying it out.
There are allegations that the SABC is also no longer using the services of an eighth journalist, the corporation’s former political editor, Vuyo Mvoko, who works for the broadcaster as a freelance contributing editor.
Though Mvoko has not received a letter of dismissal, the Daily News's sister newspaper, The Star understands that the SABC bosses have not used his work since he penned an exclusive article (for the newspaper) backing his colleagues and detailing the extent of the censorship at the broadcaster.
Ntuli said they were encouraged by Wednesday’s high court ruling, but would go to the country’s top court to ensure their freedom of expression was entrenched and protected.
“Today it may be a protest policy that is being debated, tomorrow it may be something else… so we are saying that we want none of that to happen again, and only the Constitutional Court will pronounce that.
"The issue is not (SABC boss) Mr (Hlaudi) Motsoeneng, it’s the environment which allows these kinds of things to happen, which have happened before and will definitely continue to happen.
“We understand that the SABC is a huge institution, it’s a contested space and it’s a very powerful tool for any political party. We are not saying anything about any political party. What we are saying is that people come with their agendas and think they will want to impose those agendas on us,” she said.
Gqubule said that what they were fighting for was an SABC that was a public institution that promoted universal access to the airwaves.
She said the protest policy was only a “sliver of the slew of policies and draconian anti-journalistic practices” at the public broadcaster.
“You can withdraw the protest policy but still have an environment that is not conducive to the practice of ethical journalism in the SABC.
"So it’s a bit of a tryst with the devil in a way, because we don’t see how this striking down of the (protest) policy alone can solve the problems of the corrosive environment and the other forms of censorship,” she said.
Solidarity’s Labour Court application to have the dismissals set aside was postponed until 12.30pm on Friday.