SABC zaps Zapiro
THE SABC has canned another programme - potentially critical of President Jacob Zuma - just days before the ANC's national elective conference in Mangaung.
Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro, was told yesterday thathis pre-recorded interview with SABC3's Interface would not be aired.
The cancellation was, he said, apparently because of "orders from above".
"Even in the interview it felt like I was being pushed into having to say something positive about the president," said Shapiro.
This follows the cancellation last week of a Metro FM talkshow in which three political journalists were to discuss the media's coverage of the build-up to the Mangaung conference.
The SABC defended its decision, saying the ANC should have been represented to ensure that the show was "balanced".
Two days ago, the public broadcaster announced that it would centralise control of talkshows across its 18 radio stations.
"This decision will help us to have a centralised way of dealing with issues of a political and governance nature in a coherent and systematic way, and in line with our editorial policy," said acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Yesterday, Shapiro said that the SABC's editorial policy amounted to self-censorship.
"The bigwigs at the SABC seem to be currying favour with the dominant faction in the ANC," he said.
An anonymous letter by concerned SABC journalists - addressed to the broadcaster's board - alleges, among other things, that:
- Reporters have been taken to task for not submitting sufficient visuals of Zuma;
- Political analysts have been pulled off shows without explanation; and
- Current affairs producers and presenters have been warned that they are too negative about the government and are deficient in defending Zuma.
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago strongly denied that there was censorship of the sort Shapiro was referring to, saying "for every decision there is a reason".
He said he was not aware of the exact reasons for the canning of the Interface show, but: "The problem is that everyone thinks a decision is taken because of them. It is not personal."
Kganyago saidthere was no "blacklist" of commentators at the SABC.
"Each media house has its own style guide. When we refer to President Zuma's Nkandla home, even if the print media calls it 'Zumaville', that ['home'] is our style," he said.
Kganyago said the new controls over talkshows that dealt with politics and governance had no bearing on the decision at Interface to can the Zapiro segment.
"Interface is a news programme; it always has been. It is not politics and governance."
Zuma instituted a claim for damages against Shapiro and the Sunday Times because of a Zapiro cartoon that depicted him unbuckling his trousers while his allies held down Lady Justice.
The claim was withdrawn in October.
Media Monitoring Africa told Sapayesterday that the corporation's decision to centralise talkshows dealing with politics and governance would have far-reaching implications "not only for the broadcaster's radio services but, most important, for listeners ."