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

Pretoria - The SABC has denied that it refused to cover any form of violent protest action and it will thus not oppose the granting of an urgent interdict against it in this regard, but it is not prepared to show video footage of destruction of public property.

“The only aspect which the SABC seeks to avoid is the broadcasting of visuals of the violent protests that are on the rise and which involve the destruction of public institutions…It does not affect the broadcasting of peaceful and/or violent protests which has nothing to do with the destruction of public institutions.”

This is according to Maloko Tebele, acting group executive news and current affairs at the SABC, in his answering affidavit filed in response to the urgent application lodged by the Helen Suzman Foundation.

High Court in Pretoria Judge John Murphy will on Wednesday hear the application in which the HSF seeks urgent relief interdicting the implementation of what it calls the SABC’s policy and practice not to cover violent and other protests.

The HSF will ask for an interim interdict in this regard, pending the final determination of the issue, either by way of a later review of the SABC’s editorial policies, or the final determination of the proceedings in this regard before ICASA.

The HSF cited 11 respondents in its urgent application, including SABC’S chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. All the parties missed the deadline to file their opposing papers. Tebele, on behalf of the SABC on Monday filed his papers. He stated that there is no need for the other respondents, including Motsoeneng, to participate in these proceedings as he acted in his capacity as editor in chief when he outlined the SABC’s stance regarding it covering of news events.

Motsoeneng filed a short affidavit simply to confirm the content Tebele’s statement.

Head of the HSF, Francis Antonie, meanwhile said in court papers that a “policy” has recently been adopted which has resulted in the SABC censoring news. He said while the full nature of the policy is unclear, it is clear that the SABC is refusing to cover various forms of protest actions.

“The censorship is unconstitutional and unlawful…Moreover, given the timing of the policy ….it is feared that the censorship decision is actuated by the desire to assist or favour various political parties, and is demonstrative of the worst form of political partisanship.”

Antonie questioned the timing and motive of the policy, so close to the local elections and said for this reason the application was extremely urgent.

But Tebele denied that there was anything sinister in refusing to broadcast certain events. He said the broadcaster is covering all the events complained about by the HSF, but it point blank refused to show video footage of the destruction of public property.

He also denied that this was a policy, as referred to by Antonie, but said it was rather an editorial decision.

According to him first hand experience has showed that the burning and destruction of property during protests escalated once the violent protesters noticed the presence of the SABC cameras at a scene.

“I deny that the SABC has refused to cover any form of violent protest action or demonstration. The only aspect the SABC is not prepared to show is video footage of the destruction of public property.”

Tebele said the court should not entertain the application and it should be struck from the roll, especially as all these issued are in any event before ICASA.

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