The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) gladly receives the ruling by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) of 11th day of July 2016 in respect to the SABC censorship resolution announced on the 26th day of May 2016. BLA accepts as a correct observation by ICASA that “the duties of the SABC are directed at keeping the listening and viewing public informed so that informed choices may be made as to their daily lives. An informed, constitutional public, must have the full opportunity to see and hear what is in the public interest to know”. The SABC’s resolution is an impediment to the South African public access to information as is guaranteed in terms of section 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
BLA condemns public violence at all costs but we find the absolute censorship of covering of violent scenes by SABC as both depriving of information to the South African public and therefore unconstitutional. South Africans deserve to be truthfully informed of developments in their country, both positive and negative.
BLA further urges the SABC to lift the suspensions meted out to those journalists who have been suspended for being opposed to the censorship. The cause of their suspension, the ban on covering public violence, has been found by the ICASA to be contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, the Broadcasting Act 1999 and the SABC Broadcasting Licenses, and therefore invalid.
We echo the LSSA’s sentiments that like the Public Protector ICASA, as the Broadcasting Authority in terms of section 192 of the Constitution, is a chapter 9 institution and as such its rulings have legal effect and are binding. Given the circumstances mentioned above we urge SABC Board Chairperson to respect and adhere to the ruling by ICASA and advise ICASA in writing through the Complaints Compliance Committee that the resolution of the 26th day of May 2016 has been withdrawn as ordered.
Issued on behalf of the BLA.
14 July 2016