SABC Gagging Order Hard to Swallow

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Media Monitoring Africa notes with concern the alleged official decision by the SABC to cancel open lines (City Press, 28/02/2016). Not only does this decision undermine SABC employees by suggesting that presenters and producers are unable to manage calls of a more political nature, particularly in the run up to the local government elections later in the year, but also by limiting freedom of expression, this decision undermines the South African constitution and the mandate of the SABC in promoting a diversity of views.

Although the reports of the SABC banning open lines are deeply concerning, this is not something new. We have seen in the past a number of more ‘political’ programmes being cancelled. We saw this happen for example in 2013 with The Big Debate series being pulled on SABC 2, and another example of a rumoured cancellation of an SAfm show in 2012.

What is also concerning  is that the banning  limits the SABC to the voices of only certain individuals with power. Rather the SABC, as the public broadcaster should serve all South Africans in their diversity.

Another key concern is that editorial decisions such as these would not have been made if the public broadcaster had an up-to-date progressive, independent and innovative editorial policy in place. The fact that the SABC editorial policy review and updated polcieis are now 8 years overdue is not only embarrassing for the SABC but also speaks volumes about the commitment to their review and updating.

The question we need to ask is in whose interest is the public broadcaster banning call-ins because without allowing South Africans’ voices to be heard on its platforms, the SABC undermines both  freedom of expression and the citizens’ right to participate in the country’s democratic processes.

This alleged decision calls for South Africans to demand an urgent investigation into these claims and call for the SABC to re-open their phones lines so that during this particularly crucial period of pre-elections our views, opinions, comments and voices can be heard.

For more information contact:

Thandi Smith (Head of Policy Programme)

+2711 788 1278 / thandis@mma.org.za

William Bird (Director)

+ 2711 788 1278 / williamb@mma.org.za

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