The People of South Africa Won’t Tolerate SABC Censorship & Thought Control
On Friday, 24 June 2016, protestors took to the streets to demand ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) to rule against the SABC and Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s blanket ban of visuals of community protests involving the destruction of public property. The protestors ranged from a wide range of organisations including the Marikana Support Committee, Freedom of Expression Network, and members of the South African Screen Federation. The SOS Coalition’s partners, amandla.mobi, also handed over a 5000 signatory strong petition to the Coordinator of the CCC, demanding a ruling against the public broadcaster’s self-censorship of community protest and civil unrest.
In their papers, the complainants contended that, in addition to being unlawful and in contravention of its license conditions, the blanket ban would deny the people of South Africa the right to know about the nature and extent of communities’ dissatisfaction with their local government councillors and authorities. This, they argued, was sharply put into perspective with the public broadcaster’s failure to provide independent, contextualised and full coverage of the recent and violent protests in various communities in Tshwane, in line with its statutory mandate and its own editorial policies.
Asked on their view of the hearing proceedings, MMA director, William Bird, remarked that he was “flabbergasted by the level of unsubstantiated arguments presented by the SABC’s legal team which undermined the intelligence of the people of South Africa. Even before the embarrassing showing by the broadcaster’s lawyers, we offered Mr Motsoeneng the opportunity to do the right thing and protect his and the SABC’s dignity by withdrawing the blanket ban on vital information for citizens to use in order to make informed devisions when they vote for their local government authorities in August, this year.”
— William Bird (@Billbobbird) June 24, 2016
Sheniece Linderboom, head of the FXI’s legal clinic described the proceedings as “clear indication of the SABC’s commitment to limiting freedom of information which is a vital and complementary right to freedom of expression.” She added, “even though we condemn public violence and destruction of property during protest, the blanket ban is effectively being used to deny South Africans their information rights, which is equally condemnable.”
“We are especially grateful for the support we received from Dario Milo and his public interest law team at Webber Wentzel, as well as Gilbert Marcus SC for taking this matter up on our behalf pro bono,” said Phamodi.
A ruling on the matter is expected in the coming weeks, in line with the matter being heard on an urgent basis, and a recommendation will be made to the ICASA Council on the course of action to be followed.