Johannesburg - “Why go for hard-core porno if you can’t broadcast hard-core news?”
This was one of the messages that was displayed on a sign which Right2Know (R2K) protesters hoisted outside the SABC head offices in Auckland Park, Joburg, on Monday.
Other posters read: “I shall decide what content is good for me” and “Movies are more violent than community protests”.
The group from the activist campaign group and non-profit organisation stormed the street outside the public broadcaster’s headquarters, demanding an end to what they deemed censorship and propaganda at the SABC.
Chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng was the target of many of their grievances. They demanded his removal as a result of many of the recent controversial editorial changes he has instituted.
This included banning the airing of visuals of violent protests and of reading newspaper headlines on air.
Right2Know attributed the changes to political interference, which it deemed unconstitutional.
“The once proud public broadcaster has gone from bad to worse under Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s watch,”R2K media freedom and diversity organiser Micah Reddy told the gathering. “The SABC has become a PR firm for Luthuli House (the ANC headquarters),”Reddy said.
He added that the broadcaster reached a larger audience than any other media organisation and that it should provide news that was accurate, fair and impartial.
“We don’t want to be kept ignorant.”
As more and more people joined the peaceful protest, SAPS and Joburg metro police department officers arrived on the scene and cordoned off a section of the busy road.
While the group sang and danced in protest, the security contingent sealed off the entrances to the SABC and prohibited them from moving any closer.
The protesters erupted into applause when Reddy read out the list of demands that has since been handed to the SABC. These include putting an end to censorship, which the organisation says is purposely done to avoid criticising the ruling elite.
Reddy said documentaries such as Miners Shot Down had been canned because of the censorship of coverage.
The documentary, which unravels the 2012 Marikana shooting, where 34 striking miners were gunned down and 10 others, including police officers and security guards, lost their lives in the week preceding the massacre, has also been handed to the SABC to air.
R2K also called for the withdrawal of the revised editorial policy.
Reddy said it was implemented without properly undertaking the public consultation process, which it was obliged to follow.
The final demand was for Motsoeneng to be removed from office.
Reddy said he was unfit for the job and that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had found that he lied about his qualifications, purged senior staff and improperly increased his salary.
“The SABC must expect further mass action until our demands are met,”said Reddy.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago accepted the memorandum and a copy of the documentary.
He insisted that the public broadcaster would continue to cover protests but would not air violent footage.