Johannesburg - The decision by the beleaguered SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to make a u-turn and allow seven of the eight journalists it fired for disagreeing with the policy of banning violent footage during protests was a victory against censorship, trade union Solidarity said on Wednesday.
The union had earlier gone back to the Labour Court and issued an ultimatum to the SABC to allow its members back to the workplace before 4pm, failing which the SABC would face a compliance order and an application for contempt of the Labour Court. “Solidarity and the journalists are obviously very relieved about the latest development.
However, we are disappointed that we had to threaten further court action before the dismissed journalists were allowed back at work,” said union chief executive Dirk Hermann.
“The journalists are also relieved that they will now be able to do what they do best, namely to report objectively, especially on the coming local elections.”
The four, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) executive producer Foeta Krige, Afrikaans news producer Suna Venter, journalist Jacques Steenkamp and SAFM current affairs producer Krivani Pillay, were barred from accessing their workplace when they reported for duty on Wednesday.
In a scathing judgement delivered by Judge Andre van Niekerk on Tuesday, the court said the termination of their employment last week was unlawful, and awarded costs against the SABC.
Several other senior SABC journalists, including Thandeka Gcubule, Busisiwe Ntuli and Lukhanyo Calata, were sent termination letters by the public broadcaster last week.
Vuyo Mvoko's contract was not renewed by the SABC because he publicly criticised the broadcaster's ban on the broadcasting of violent protests.
Mvoko has approached the high court to ask it to set aside the termination of his contract. Mvoko is not a permanent employee at the broadcaster. His matter was set to be heard on Thursday. In court papers served on the SABC, Mvoko argues that the public broadcaster violated the independent contract agreement he had with them.
Meanwhile, the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers' Union (Bemawu) had also approached the Labour Court on behalf of Ntuli, Calata and Gcubule.
The union wanted their dismissals deemed illegal and set aside. Their matter was scheduled to be heard on Thursday in Johannesburg's Labour Court.
All eight journalists earlier this month approached the Constitutional Court for direct access to argue to have the ban on airing footage of violence reversed.
Last week, the SABC made a u-turn and said it would reverse its decision not to show violent protest footage in a case brought before the North Gauteng High Court by the Helen Suzman Foundation.
The public broadcaster negotiated and reached a settlement with the HSF in court. Hermann added “the war has not yet been won” at the SABC. “
We call on civic organisations to intensify pressure on the SABC and parliament to bring about a change in leadership at the SABC.”African News Agency