The SABC has expanded its news and current affairs services on its free-to-air television channels as a direct response to the escalating need for public awareness and more targeted information around the coronavirus outbreak.
“It is the SABC’s public interest obligation to ensure that all our citizens are appropriately and adequately empowered with credible information, in order to adhere to prescribed precautionary measures and lockdown regulations,” said group CEO, Madoda Mxakwe. “The public broadcaster is part of nationwide efforts to preserve lives.”
All relevant media briefings and other communications relating to the coronavirus will be carried live on SABC 2 and/or SABC 3. The specific channel for transmission will be announced once the information becomes available, or closer to the time. This will be in addition to other targeted news and information slots that have been introduced recently.
Meanwhile, the SABC has sharply criticised union BEMAWU for its continued “irresponsible peddling of alarmist and false information about coronavirus-related matters inside and outside the organisation, particularly at a time when accurate information is so important to every single employee of the Corporation”.
BEMAWU, it said, used selective information to spread fake news despite having received factual communication regarding employees allegedly infected by coronavirus.
The union accused the broadcaster of being “reluctant” to allow staff to work from home and of delaying implementing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 at its offices.
Not true, the SABC said in a statement. It had, ahead of the announcement of a national disaster and the lockdown, decided employees should work remotely where possible, with only “critical and essential staff working from our offices”.
The broadcaster’s board said whenever it suspected a staff member had been exposed to the coronavirus externally, necessary precautionary measures were immediately taken by management, with employees being asked to self-isolate and work from home while tests were being conducted.
It accused the union of using selective information to spread fake news, despite indicating having seen factual communication in relation to reports that some employees had been infected by coronavirus.
The SABC said in one case, the test results was negative. And in the case of the positive test, that employee was on sick leave for an unrelated condition. “It is quite sad that instead of showing compassion, solidarity and support for our colleagues and their families at this very difficult time of national crisis, BEMAWU has decided to use this as an opportunistic, point-scoring exercise,” the broadcaster said.
It urged the union to stop being reckless by spreading unverified information and instead, help the SABC “provide constructive solutions as a labour organisation at the SABC, in the spirit of patriotic unity and working together, to assist the public broadcaster to deal with this unprecedented challenge. Should BEMAWU persist with these false and damaging allegations, the SABC reserves its right to take further action at the appropriate time”.
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