(File image) The SABC headquarters, with a Sentech tower in the background, at Auckland Park in Johannesburg. Photo: Cara Viereckl

Johannesburg - The SABC has admitted that its former head of news broke its own broadcasting standards by blacklisting journalists and commentators five years ago.

It was alleged in 2006 that the then head of news and current affairs at the broadcaster, Snuki Zikalala, had instructed his staff not to use certain journalists or political commentators who opposed Thabo Mbeki’s presidency.

A complaint was lodged by the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) in 2007, and the parties came to an agreement on Monday.

A joint press release from the two bodies said the actions of Zikalala and other staff involved was not in line with the broadcaster’s code of conduct or editorial policies.

It also said the actions had contravened section 6 of the Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999. The act states that the broadcaster must offer “a plurality of views and a variety of news, information and analysis from a South African point of view”.

As a result of the agreement with the FXI, the SABC said it had adopted guidelines on the use of commentators, experts and analysts in its news. It said the broadcaster had committed to “monitoring and enforcing compliance” with its editorial policies.

Section 6 of the act also states that the broadcaster must ensure “a high standard of accuracy, fairness and impartiality in news and programmes that deal with matters of public interest”.

“We remain committed to having a public broadcaster which will actively ensure the availability of social and political views on its airways,” said the joint statement.

The FXI had withdrawn its complaint on the first day of a scheduled hearing into the complaint at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa head office in Sandton.

The hearing follows another scandal at the broadcaster, when acting head of news Jimi Matthews reportedly told staff to refrain from using certain terms when talking about President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla compound in KwaZulu-Natal.

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The Star