SABC: Cab­i­net out of touch

ANC a di­vided party, say me­dia ac­tivists

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG DODDS

THE CAB­I­NET’S re­sponse to the cri­sis at the SABC was out of touch with reality and showed how di­vided the ANC was at present, me­dia ac­tivists said yes­ter­day.

This was af­ter the cab­i­net is­sued a state­ment con­firm­ing its sup­port for me­dia free­dom, but tak­ing no po­si­tion on the de­ci­sion by SABC chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng to ban cov­er­age of vi­o­lent protests and de­struc­tion of prop­erty, or the sus­pen­sion of jour­nal­ists op­posed to the move.

While the cab­i­net said the role of the pub­lic broad­caster was “vi­tal for the de­vel­op­ment of our young democ­racy”, it said the “dis­cus­sion” over the SABC’s edi­to­rial de­ci­sions should be “held in a con­struc­tive man­ner that would serve to strengthen our democ­racy”.

It ex­pressed its con­fi­dence that the SABC would “con­tinue to serve the in­ter­ests of all the peo­ple of South Africa”.

Lawyers for Me­dia Mon­i­tor­ing Africa and the SOS: Sup­port Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing Cam­paign, among civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions that com­plained to the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity of SA (Icasa) over Mot­soe­neng’s ban, have asked for a rul­ing on the mat­ter by Icasa’s Com­plaints and Com­pli­ance Com­mis­sion to be made pub­lic.

The rul­ing has been sub­mit­ted to the Icasa coun­cil but was not re­leased on Thursday as ex­pected.

Re­spond­ing to the cab­i­net state­ment, Me­dia Mon­i­tor­ing Africa ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Wil­liam Bird said: “To com­ment only to that de­gree, wow, that’s dis­ap­point­ing.”

The cab­i­net was ex­pected to lead but had failed to do so.

It was “un­for­tu­nate” that it hadn’t “nailed its colours to the mast” by ei­ther sup­port­ing the po­si­tion of Jack­son Mthembu, chair­man of the ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee sub­com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tions, or pre­vi­ous state­ments by the ANC sup­port­ing the ban on cov­er­age of pub­lic vi­o­lence.

Mthembu this week slammed Mot­soe­neng’s de­ci­sion and said Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi must ac­count for gov­er­nance failures at the SABC.

Bird said the cab­i­net’s sug­ges­tion that there was a “dis­cus­sion” over the ban amounted to a de­nial of the reality that it was cen­sor­ship.

This went against ANC pol­icy, and the fact that the cab­i­net had not come out clearly on the mat­ter showed how deep the di­vides were in the ANC, Bird said.

Sekoet­lane Phamodi, cam­paign or­gan­iser of the SOS Coali­tion, said ei­ther the cab­i­net was so dis­en­gaged from the is­sue that it was ready to ac­cept Muthambi’s as­sur­ances that the broad­caster was “do­ing just fine”, or, like the SABC board and se­nior man­age­ment, it was “equally delin­quent in dis­charg­ing its duty to en­sure that the 10-year long SABC cri­sis is ar­rested and re­solved once and for all”.

“It is patently ob­vi­ous that the SABC is in cri­sis.

“Eleven CEOs in seven years, and two col­lapsed boards in three years can­not be ig­nored. It is busi­ness unusual, and is detri­men­tal to our hav­ing free and fair elec­tions when we go to the polls, again, on Au­gust 3.”

craig.dodds@inl.co.za

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