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Stop attacking head of SABC news, Sanef tells Fikile Mbalula

26 November 2021 - 16:56
The SA National Editors' Forum has asked transport minister and the ANC's head of elections Fikile Mbalula to stop the 'baseless attacks' on the head of SABC news Phatiswa Magopeni. File photo.
The SA National Editors' Forum has asked transport minister and the ANC's head of elections Fikile Mbalula to stop the 'baseless attacks' on the head of SABC news Phatiswa Magopeni. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) says the ANC’s head of elections Fikile Mbalula should immediately stop his personal attack on SABC head of news and current affairs Phatiswa Magopeni.

On Thursday, Mbalula accused the SABC of running shows critical of service delivery at municipal level, which he claimed led to a low voter turnout and contributed to his party’s loss of three Gauteng metros in the recent local government elections.

He specifically singled out Magopeni for criticism.  

The SABC issued a statement defending its head of news and its election coverage. 

In its statement on Friday, Sanef said it found Mbalula’s attack on the SABC’s coverage of the November elections baseless and shameful. 

“Mbalula should immediately stop the personal attack on SABC editor-in-chief & group executive: SABC news & current affairs Ms Phatiswa Magopeni as we've found in the past that this encourages cyberbullying by party members and his followers on social media,” Sanef said.

According to Reporters Without Borders' "Sexism's Toll on Journalism" report, women journalists are exposed to alarming additional risks that range from discrimination, sexual harassment and cyber-harassment to rape threats, sexual attack, rape and even murder.

“Mbalula seems to hate the truth that came out of the SABC’s Service Delivery Gauge, a show that looked into the performance of municipalities in providing basic service delivery through the genuine voices and opinions of the general public.”

Sanef said according to Mbalula, the show also put the ANC on the “back foot” as it focused only on the failures of ANC-led municipalities.

The SABC ought to be shielded from such misplaced notions of sweetheart journalism.
SA National Editors’ Forum

“We believe that the SABC did its job when it gave the citizens of this country the voice to express their concerns about service delivery in their respective municipalities.”

Sanef said it appeared Mbalula expected the SABC to gloss over poor performance of ANC-run councils and operate like an extended public relations machine of the ANC.

“This ought to be rejected.”

Sanef said this would be a breach of  the public broadcaster’s mandate which requires the SABC to provide a wide range of programming that, among others, offers a plurality of views and a variety of news, information and analysis from a SA point of view.

“Instead of being vilified, the minister, the ANC and all political parties and independent candidates should be commending the SABC for its outstanding coverage of local government elections with limited resources. The SABC ought to be shielded from such misplaced notions of sweetheart journalism.”

In an unrelated matter, the SABC charged Magopeni for negligence and bringing the public broadcaster into disrepute. This is after investigative news programme Special Assignment aired an episode the SABC had been interdicted from broadcasting. 

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