Journalists say SABC is enforcing a Zuma bias

10 December 2012 - 11:22 By SCHALK MOUTON
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

JOURNALISTS at the SABC have allegedly been "taken to task" for not airing enough footage showing President Jacob Zuma and for not defending the president against his critics.

Concerns about these charges and others were cited in a letter from a group of "concerned journalists, producers and presenters" at the SABC.

It was addressed to the broadcaster's board and to its acting head of news, Jimi Matthews.

Only a week before the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung, the journalists - who did not name themselves or sign the letter because they feared they would be victimised - listed a number of concerns that suggested political interference.

Some of the claims are that:

Shows have been "canned" after their hosts announced the content to the listeners or viewers and the intended guests had arrived;

Political reporters have been removed from their jobs without adequate reason being given or due process being followed;

Reporters have been taken to task for not showing enough visual footage of Zuma;

Analysts have been pulled off shows without explanation;

Current affairs producers and presenters have been warned that they are too negative about the government and have been advised that they are not defending Zuma enough; and

Stories involving former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema had been "treated differently from others".

The letter states that, on the same day that Matthews reassured the political desk that Malema was not banned from the station, sound bites from Malema had been removed from radio and television reports. In addition, various national news stories involving Malema had not made it to air.

"The climate of uncertainty and fear has created a state of paranoia in both the television and radio news rooms and has lowered morale," the letter reads.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago yesterday said neither Matthews nor the board had received the letter.

"No one has received a letter like that," he said.

"It's anonymous, so it is from faceless people. For all we know, it might be one person claiming to represent everybody.

"There have been no complaints about these issues that have been brought to us," he said.

Last week, a MetroFM show, hosted by Sakina Kamwendo, was cancelled after Sunday Times political editor S'thembiso Msomi, Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli and Financial Times Southern African bureau chief Andrew England were in the SABC studios.

The SABC claimed the show was cancelled because there was no ANC representation.

Also last week, SAFM presenter Siki Mgabadeli was told to pull a slot in her show for similar reasons, and senior political reporter Sophie Mokoena was removed from the political desk and told that she will not be covering the Mangaung conference.