Johannesburg - A storm of controversy has met the SABC’s decision no longer to show footage of destruction of property during service delivery protests, with some calling the move an “obvious form of censorship”.
According to SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago, the decision was taken after hours of management discussions at the broadcaster on Thursday night, with the announcement made shortly before midnight.
“The SABC as a public service broadcaster would like to condemn the burning of public institutions and has made a decision that it will not show footage of people burning public institutions like schools in any of its news bulletins with immediate effect. We are not going to provide publicity to such actions that are destructive and regressive,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
“The SABC is cognisant of the fact that citizens have constitutional rights to protest and voice their concerns on various issues that they are not happy with but we also do not believe that destruction of property is the best way to voice those grievances,” it continued.
“These actions are regrettable and viewed as regressive on the developments made after 22 years of South Africa’s democracy. Continuing to promote them might encourage other communities to do the same. The SABC would like to stress that we will continue to cover news without fear or favour. We will not cover people who are destroying public property.”
SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng said it was the broadcaster’s mandate to educate citizens and called on them to protest peacefully, “without destroying the very same institutions that are needed to restore their dignity”.
However, it was the final line of the statement that worried media institutions on Friday morning.
“The SABC would like to make an appeal to other South African broadcasters and the print media to stand in solidarity with the public broadcaster not to cover the violent protests that are on the rise and in turn destroying public institutions,” the conclusion read.
Daily Maverick associate editor, Ranjeni Munusamy, tweeted: “So SABC is censoring itself and asking everyone else to follow suit. And why is Hlaudi making editorial decisions?”
Kganyago on Thursday rescinded the final part of the statement, saying it was not to call on media houses not to cover protests at all, but rather to not show images and video of the violence.