Media Monitoring Africa Responds to Allegations of SABC Censorship: Who said Boo to who?

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MMA notes with concern the story carried by City Press in which it is alleged that SABC news management deliberately omitted any mention of the booing of President Jacob Zuma during the Mandela Memorial Service from its headline news bulletins on the 10th of December 2013.

MMA has viewed the headline news bulletins from SABC1, SABC 2 and SABC 3 and can confirm that no mention of the booing incident was made in any of the bulletins.

It is clear that the incident may perhaps not be the central news story of the day, given the event at which it took place.  If we consider the stature of the speaker, the President of South Africa, and the importance of his speech, there can be little doubt that the story was newsworthy.

If true, the decision to deliberately omit the information constitutes a clear violation of the SABC’s Editorial code.

In our view such an omission constitutes a clear breach of the following clauses of the SABC Editorial policies:

“We report, contextualise, and present news and current affairs honestly by striving to disclose all the essential facts and by not suppressing relevant, available facts, or distorting by wrong or improper emphasis” pg. 20

“The Code of Conduct for Broadcasters also requires the SABC to report news truthfully, accurately and objectively. In this regard, the staff may not allow their professional judgment to be influenced by pressures from political, commercial or other sectional interests” pg. 20

“SABC news staff are expected to present issues fairly, not to take sides, and to afford the public access to the full range of views on a subject. In this regard, editorial staff should not become emotional, or use emotive language, in writing stories or conducting interviews”. Pg. 20

It is certainly debatable as to whether the action for the audience to boo were appropriate and or respectful given the occasion to celebrate former President Nelson Mandela’s life, however, as the public broadcaster, tasked with reporting the news fairly accurately and in a balanced manner, such a decision feeds allegations of political interference at our public broadcaster and undermine its credibility.

MMA calls on the SABC Editor in Chief, GCEO Lulama Mokhobo to carry out an urgent investigation and to brief the public on its terms, progress and outcomes, and we call on SABC news management to ensure it not only adheres to its editorial policies but practices the highest standards of ethical professional journalism.

For More information call:

Thandi Smith 073 470 7306 or

William Bird 082 887 1370

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