'SABC violent protest coverage ban has no legal source'

24 June 2016 - 17:19 By Roxanne Henderson

The SABC's response to allegations of censorship raised by media monitoring groups has been blasted for having no legal basis. This on Friday at an Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) hearing‚ dealing with the public broadcaster's decision not to air footage of violent protests‚ in Sandton.The complaint against the SABC was laid in May by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA)‚ supported by the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute.Editors urge SABC to lift suspensions of journalists opposed to picket blackoutAdvocate Gilbert Marcus SC‚ for the complainants‚ said that the SABC's “blanket ban” of footage portraying violent protests and destruction of property was in defiance of its legal obligations.“The exercise of any public power must have a legal source. [The SABC has] failed to point to anything [in its reply] which would lawfully entitle it to adopt this policy.”Instead‚ the SABC had violated its own editorial policies which stated that it had a duty to disclose all essential facts‚ not suppress available facts or create distortion in its reporting‚ Marcus said.Marcus said that the SABC's submission suggesting that airing violent protests led to the incitement of violence was “simply false”‚ adding that the complainants did not support the airing of unnecessary violence.“It is no part of our case that violence should be glamourised.”The SABC had argued‚ through advocate Regent Tokota SC‚ that in line with its regulations‚ it had a duty to protect its journalists in violent protests and protect children‚ from the portrayal of dangerous behaviour they might imitate.Marcus hit back‚ saying that the irony of this argument was that it suggested that up until May 26‚ when the SABC policy was announced‚ it had been acting in breach of its licensing regulations when it had previously aired violent protests.

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