Three SABC journalists have taken their boss, chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, to task over his censorship of the news and for his decision to suspend three of their colleagues.
In a strongly worded letter addressed to Motsoeneng, Busisiwe Ntuli (executive producer: Special Assignment), Krivani Pillay (executive producer: SAfm current affairs) and Jacques Steenkamp (senior investigative reporter), have demanded a meeting to discuss recent developments at the state-owned broadcaster.
“Our newsroom has become a source of derision, despair and criticism from the people that we are fundamentally accountable to, the public at large,” the trio write in the letter, which is dated Sunday, 26 June.
The letter comes as news emerged on Monday that SABC acting CEO Jimi Matthews, a veteran broadcast journalist, tendered his resignation, saying what is happening at the SABC is “wrong” and that he can “no longer be a part of it”.
In their letter, Ntuli, Pillay and Steenkamp say that the recent decisions to ban the reading of newspaper headlines on air and to can The Editors show on SAfm amount to “censorship, unless reasonable and professional explanations can be advanced within the framework of the editorial policy and our obligation to serve the public”.
“As seasoned journalists within the SABC, we maintain that the reasons given for these sudden decisions contradict our governing policies and legislation, namely the revised SABC editorial code, the South African Broadcasting Act and the South African constitution.
“As journalists having to operationalise the policies of this public institution, which is important for the promotion of our democracy, we feel aggrieved that the image of our institution and our journalistic integrity continues to be compromised by unconstitutional pronouncements that erode the credibility of the SABC and the journalistic integrity of all of us who work for it.”
The three journalists have also taken strong exception to the suspension of three of their colleages for “expressing their right to freedom of expression by simply debating and assessing the newsworthiness of events as expected during editorial meetings”.
“As such, we view the suspensions of Thandeka Gqubule, Foeta Krige and Suna Venter as acts of victimisation,” they write.
The trio write that they are “shocked by the latest pronouncements, which fundamentally erode the right of the public to know the whole story about the developments in their communities and to display such stories in a responsible manner…” — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media