8411 2010.6.18 Flags and patriotism at the SABC, Auckland Park, Joburg. Picture: Cara Viereckl

Parliament - Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications on Wednesday expressed deep concern at developments at the SABC and urged the public broadcaster to respect an interim court order issued earlier by the Pretoria High Court against its ban on footage of violent protests.

The committee said it would use a meeting in August to question Communications Minister Faith Muthambi about the state of the public broadcaster.

“The portfolio committee on communications is deeply concerned by developments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as reported in the media. This after the Committee has heard that SABC has dismissed eight of its journalists,” a statement from the committee read.

Committee chairman Humphrey Maxegwana said the recent dismissal of eight SABC journalists, in apparent reprisal for questioning editorial policy, was cause for concern, as was the outcry over a number of developments at the company.

“Although not privy to the merits and demerits of the cases, resignations and dismissals of employees are a reason for concern, especially in a country with high levels of unemployment. The SABC’s mandate is to broadcast in the public interest, but lately there has been public outcry about developments at the corporation. This is another reason for concern,” he said.

Maxegwana said Muthambi was due to appear before the committee on August 23 to discuss all entities that report to her, including the SABC. The committee would use that meeting “to understand all developments at the SABC”.

On Wednesday morning, the Pretoria High Court granted the Helen Suzman Foundation an urgent interdict ordering the SABC to lift its ban on visuals of destruction of property, which controversial chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng had vowed to implement despite an order from the Independent Communications Authority of SA to reverse it.

The order came after the SABC’s lawyers opted not to contest it but to insist on a qualification that the company retained editorial independence, within the prescripts of its constitutional mandate.

“The committee notes the judgement by the High Court in Pretoria regarding the SABC and hopes that the corporation will abide by the judgement,” Maxegwana said.