The SABC board and executive management will not retract their decision to not broadcast visuals of violent protests. Instead they are going to fight the ruling in the courts. Michael Bratt was there.
Called at 12:15 to start at 14:00, the urgent media briefing, which began an hour and a half later than it was scheduled for, was a platform for the SABC board and upper management to react to an Icasa ruling that it stop censoring protest visuals as well as respond to negative allegations about the public broadcaster’s finances. Icasa on Monday ruled that the SABC must retract its decision not to broadcast visuals of violent protests within five days.
Board chairperson, Mbulaheni Maguvhe, who spoke first, responded to the Icasa ruling, saying, “I wasn’t surprised by it… it’s not because I didn’t believe in what we have done. But that’s how things are in our country these days. But I won’t elaborate any further… I still believe that we were right. And I maintain that we are right”.
He went on to state that within the next five days – the deadline given by Icasa to withdraw its censorship policy – the SABC would consult its legal team. “If their advice is that one review this matter with the relevant authorities, which would include the High Court and Constitutional Court, that is what we are going to do,” Maguvhe said.
The briefing was also called so that the SABC could respond to an email recently circulated that claimed the public broadcaster was on the verge of financial collapse. The broadcaster said the email had misled the public about its finances. “We are not misleading the nation, the person who leaked that email is misleading the nation… we are financially stable and we are able to pay our service providers and staff members on time,” said Maguvhe.
Once these two matter s were out of the way the media was invited to ask questions and engage with the board and top management. All the obvious topics were asked about including the suspended staff members and censorship claims. COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng soon made his way to the lectern starting by greeting the media with, “I’m in the house again dealing with the same issues” followed by a small laugh.
About the suspended employees as well as the disciplinary hearing of suspended SABC CEO Frans Matlala, Motsoeneng stuck to the party line: “The matter between employer and employee, we are not going to discuss those matters. Those matters are dealt within the organisation”. He also re-emphasised, “We as SABC are not going to be influenced by people outside or internally. We will deal with the issues of the SABC as per the process and governance within the organisation. No one is going to tell us what to do within the organisation!”
Motsoeneng also touched on so called censorship at the SABC, saying that it was the same as in any other newsroom. “There are certain visuals we are not going to show the … all newsrooms censor stories everyday because there are so many of them. Why are we not seeing good stories? If it’s not good stories is that censorship? When it comes to the SABC it’s censorship, we have taken editorial decisions like any newsroom,” he said.
Maguvhe added his thoughts on the censorship claims. “I still believe that we were right. And I maintain that we are right. We have never imposed any blanket ban on the visuals… For us it’s not a blanket ban, it’s a veil, you can see through it because we are showing visuals”.
The briefing became exciting half way through when an activist from a civil society organisation stood up and started shouting at Motsoeneng, saying he was misleading South African citizens and calling for him to step down. He was escorted out by security.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8
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