Pretoria - SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng has dared those who believe the public broadcaster is wrong to not air visuals of violent protests to complain to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA).
“Those who believe the SABC is wrong can go and complain. I can assure you that they will not succeed,” Motsoeneng said on Tuesday night during a discussion hosted by the National Press Club in Pretoria.
The discussion was about the SABC’s recent decision not to broadcast certain visuals of violent protests.
He appeared alongside veteran journalist and Press Council director Joe Thloloe, SABC commercial adviser Anton Heunis, and Alet Pretorius, pictures editor for Beeld newspaper.
Motsoeneng emphasised that the public broadcaster ought to exercise accountability and responsibility in its news reporting.
“I have been a journalist. I am talking from experience.
“Immediately when protesters see cameras, they start burning,” he said.
“For kids, if someone is burning schools they may also like to experience that; they may want to burn schools too. Some people would also want to burn hospitals, where people are sick.”
It was unfair to compare the apartheid era and democratic era, Motsoeneng said.
He was aware that the media in general did not support positive stories. “I believe we need to balance negative and positive stories.”
He hit out at South African journalists, saying they only knew about South Africa. “Because when they are reporting they are saying that in South Africa there is more poverty, but if you go around the world, you will realise there is also poverty.
“But the way we report it here in South Africa, it seems as if people in South Africa are not doing very well. I believe that if you go around the world you will realise South Africa is a better place to live in.”
Motsoeneng berated those raising concerns about the ban on visuals, saying they were in the minority. “They are fewer than 10. We are not apologetic at what is happening at the SABC and the print media cannot tell us what to do,” he said.
Motsoeneng also lashed out at those claiming to represent certain organisations while they were actually “an individual operating from home”.
“They are fewer than 50,” he said. The SABC chief operations officer said citizens needed to condemn the violence that was happening in country. He was supported by Heunis, who said the glorification of violence had a negative impact on children.
However, Thloloe slammed the SABC decision, likening it to the one taken by the National Party government in 1985, during the apartheid era.
“When the National Party had a state of an emergency, one of the conditions was that the media should not take pictures where there were riots. Some of us have been in that space before. We didn’t like it; we hated it,” the former press ombudsman said.
The public broadcaster was in breach of the BCCSA code that stated that news must be presented in the correct context and that facts not be distorted in any way, he said.
According to Thloloe, the SABC was running the risk of endangering the lives of its own journalists.
He expressed concerns about the patronising tone to decide for viewers, instead of providing them with information and leave them to make their own decisions.
Pretorius, meanwhile, said the big problem was not about showing pictures of protests, but how it was going to be covered. “When the media are not at the protests it won’t make them to go away; the protests will still go on,” she said.
In his parting shot, Motsoeneng said: “Freedom of expression is the foundation of our democracy.
“Without that we don’t have democracy and that is something we should guard with our lives.
“We need to express ourselves but we need to also be accountable.”