The National Association of Democratic lawyers (NADEL) raises its serious concerns over the latest developments within the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) since its announcement not to show footage of violent protests. Three senior journalists at the SABC have since been suspended after disagreeing with management on instructions not to report protests by civil –rights group Right2know against censorship. Perhaps what is more alarming is the resignation of the SABC’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Jimi Mathews, who in his resignation letter stated, “ for many months, I have compromised the values that I hold dear under the mistaken belief that I could be more effective inside the SABC than outside passing comments from the side-lines. In the process the prevailing corrosive atmosphere has impacted negatively on my moral judgement and made me complicit in many decisions which I am not proud of”. Other senior staff members have also been reported to have said that the developments within the SABC have heightened the sense of fear, lack of clarity about their journalistic responsibility and low staff morale.
One is left with an unshakable and frightening impression that the SABC is facing serious operational challenges and is losing face as an independent voice. It is for this reason that NADEL, as a human’s right organisation, cannot remain silent. Independent media stands as one of the crucial guardians of Democracy as it is able to foster an effective, accountable and responsive government. It gives a voice to the voiceless and brings matters of importance into public knowledge which allows for meaningful political participation. In order for the SABC to remain effective it needs to maintain its independence and more so to be seen as independent.
The SABC has in the past been accused of self-censorship, lack of objectivity and selective reporting, it is however when those fears emanate from within the public broadcaster that alarm bells start ringing.
We as NADEL therefore call upon the SABC to urgently resolve its operational issues in order to improve what has been reported as a toxic working environment within the public broadcaster. The SABC needs to create a working environment that clearly outlines the journalistic responsibility of its staff and enables them to execute their functions without any fear. Media ought to make comments that are fair and report news in a manner that is in the best interest of the public. There are mechanisms that exist to guard against intolerable media coverage, the SABC therefore should not seek to self-regulate. The SABC is further called upon to take steps towards regaining the public’s confidence in it as an independent voice which serves the best interests of society.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (NADEL), SOUTH AFRICA.
By: Memory Sosibo, Publicity Secretary, NADEL Executive Committee.
Contact: 081 710 7910