SABC exchanges one dictatorial master for another
When the public broadcaster decides to turn itself into a "his master's voice" broadcaster in order to protect the image of the government, the truth gets compromised.
The SABC found itself in an embarrassing position yesterday when it was revealed that its acting head of news, Jimi Matthews, had ordered his journalists to stop referring to President Jacob Zuma's village retreat at Nkandla as a "compound" or "homestead".
Matthews is said to have told his newsroom not to adopt "imported terminology", such as "Nkandlagate", to refer to the controversy around the renovations to Zuma's home, which will reportedly cost R238-million, most of which, if not all, will be borne by the taxpayer.
The SABC also reportedly told its reporters not to refer to the Marikana killings as a "massacre".
It is shocking that these instructions were given only two days after Zuma's spin doctor, Mac Maharaj, attacked DA leader Helen Zille for using the word "compound" to refer to Zuma's Nkandla home.
The continuing lowering of standards at the SABC to suit the master's agenda sets the country on a dangerous course.
To allow politics to dictate news reporting takes us back to the days of apartheid. It is said that under National Party rule PW Botha did not hesitate to pick up a phone and dictate news policy to SABC managers.
With the arrival of democracy in 1994 we hoped that the broadcaster would be the servant of the people and fulfil its mandate as a public broadcaster.
But its news style guide is again being edited by politicians and it seems more interference is to come.
The credibility of the SABC, which has the biggest TV viewership and millions of radio listeners, is being suborned in the interests of narrow political agendas.
Dictatorship will never knock at the door that is guarded but will find easy access when everyone is fast asleep.