The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has ordered the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to reverse its editorial decision to censor ‘violent protests’ in the country.
Icasa dished out this order to the board on Monday after holding a public hearing on the issue which has caused lots of controversy in the country. Icasa ruled that the decision must be reversed.
The authority took this decision following complaints and protest action against the SABC’s decision to ban coverage of violent activities in the country especially during the forth-coming municipal elections.
SABC had in May this year, said it will no longer broadcast violent protests on any of its channels in a bid to “educate the population”, and send a message that violent action will not get them the attention they seek.
The broadcaster further extended its censorship decision to other social media by refusing to air any coverage of other media reporting on violent protests – which included the cancellation of current affairs radio shows, and stopping presenters from reading newspaper headlines on air.
To show how firm it has stood on its decision, SABC refused to air any footage of protests that broke out in the weeks following the announcement.
It even and hardly made mention of the massive protest action which played out in Tshwane, in which 5 people lost their lives.
The broadcaster has however, maintained that its decision was not a ‘policy’ but rather an editorial decision for the direction of the newsroom.
However, analyst, who have followed the growing strife in the corporation, are of the view that the parliament ought to look critically into the problems of the broadcaster and seek ways to resolve it.
Mthembu announced earlier that the ANC had summoned Communications Minister Faith Muthambi to a meeting at Luthuli House to discuss the crisis, and even encouraged her to bring SABC board members and management along.
He even went so far as to say there would be no point in getting the portfolio committee on communications involved.
Also, analysts have the opinion that only the National Assembly is vested with the right to address the body’s issues. According to opinion by BDaylive, Parliament, should be calling the minister and the board to account, not a mere political party, even if it is the governing party.
It said Mthembu flagged the change of editorial policy at the SABC as a breach of the Constitution, but saw no reason for any formal sanction other than what the ANC may deem appropriate.
SABC said that it would still cover violent protests – but only the aftermath, with no live coverage of public properties destroyed during the protest.
The corporation will hold a press conference at 3pm on Monday, following the ruling.