Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi intends asking the constitutional court to reverse the SABC’s decision to stop showing footage of violent protests.
“If [the SABC] hides some images away, if there are instructions to journalists not to cover some political parties, it only means we can never have a free and fair election,” he said on Monday.
Vavi was at the SABC’s Johannesburg office for a scheduled meeting with its chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start, Motsoeneng called to cancel.
“Hlaudi, himself, suggested that we come see him today at 12pm so that he can respond to our question as to why suspension action against journalists could not be lifted with immediate effect.”
Vavi said Motsoeneng had claimed he had no involvement with any action against journalists and that he would receive more detail from his management.
“Just as we were coming over, he called. I suspected that was going to be the case. He said sorry we can’t see you because the management says we shouldn’t see you. They insist that they proceed with a disciplinary hearing against the six. He dropped the call,” Vavi told journalists.
Vavi said there would be more mass action against the SABC in the weeks to come.
“There will be more court orders. There will be more presentations to [communications regulator] Icasa and more engagement with everyone that matters out there,” he said.
On Thursday, the SABC charged three journalists for “liaising with the media” without authorisation from their bosses. The three — Busisiwe Ntuli, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp — wrote a letter to Motsoeneng last weekend, expressing their dissatisfaction with how operations had been managed at the SABC recently. They were apparently in trouble for sending the letter to other journalists.
This followed the suspension of three other employees — Thandeka Gqubule, Foeta Krige and Suna Venter. They were served with suspension letters two weeks ago after they disagreed with an instruction during a diary conference not to cover the Right2Know Campaign’s protest against censorship at the SABC.
That protest was in response to Motsoeneng’s decision to stop airing footage of the destruction of property during protests. This caused outrage from civil society and media organisations.
Protests were held at the public broadcaster’s offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban on Friday.
SABC journalist Lukhanyo Calata was also charged on Monday after he joined the Cape Town protest.