SABC decision not to air protest footage 'in line with Constitution'

23 June 2016 - 10:19 By Bekezela Phakathi‚ Business Team
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The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says its decision not to show footage of violent protests is in line with Constitution and the Broadcasting Act.

In an affidavit responding to a complaint lodged by lobby groups‚ Jimi Matthews‚ the SABC’s acting CEO‚ also said that the public broadcaster had the responsibility not to expose its journalists and photographers to “dangers of being hit by stray bullet blows and/or affected by violent actions of protesters as has happened before”.

  • SABC sticks to its guns on no Tshwane protest coverageThe SABC says it is not doing viewers a disservice by electing not to broadcast images of destruction by protesters in Tshwane. 

“Furthermore‚ where there are members of the South African Police Service in protests‚ especially violent protests‚ the police have their own photographers and cameras to cover the situations as this conduct is criminal in its nature in terms of the law‚” said Matthews.

In May‚ Media Monitoring Africa‚ supported by the SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute‚ lodged papers with the complaints compliance committee of the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) over the SABC’s decision to ban coverage of violent protests.

The SABC had until Thursday evening to submit a formal response to the committee‚ ahead of a hearing on the matter scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon.

  • Cope: ‘SABC’s footage blackout won’t stop the protests’The Congress of the People (Cope) on Friday poured scorn on the decision by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to no longer show “footage of people burning public institutions”.

Media Monitoring Africa argues that the decision to ban the broadcasting of violent protests was unlawful and in clear violation of the Broadcasting Act‚ the SABC’s licence conditions and its revised editorial policies. The organisation also argues that the decision constituted blatant censorship by the broadcaster‚ more so in the run-up to the August local government elections.

The public broadcaster was slammed this week after it elected not to broadcast images of destruction by protesters in Tshwane who are up in arms over the selection of Thoko Didiza as mayoral candidate.


In his affidavit submitted on Thursday evening to Icasa’s complaints compliance committee and the lobby groups‚ Matthews said that said the SABC will continue to cover news without fear or favour‚ but will not cover the destruction of public property.

“The statement (communicating the decision not to show footage of violent service-delivery protests) makes it clear that (the SABC) is not prepared to continue to provide publicity to such actions that are aimed at destruction and regressive conduct. Such actions are not advancing any complaints against the government as such‚ but are merely aimed at inciting violence‚” said Matthews.


He said the SABC was prohibited from broadcasting any material which judged within the context contains gratuitous violence in terms of the Constitution‚ the Broadcasting Act and the code under which it operates.

“It is submitted that the decision of the SABC is consistent with the Constitution which reads thus ‘the right to sub-section 1 does not extend to-incitement of violence’...consequently the decision cannot be unlawful as contended by the complainants‚” said Matthews.

He also said the code of the broadcast complaints commission prohibited the airing of material that contains violence in any form‚ particularly that which does not play an integral role in developing the plot‚ character or theme of the material as a whole.


In terms of the licences granted to the SABC in relation to news and current affairs‚ Matthews said‚ the broadcaster has an obligation to edit and control the flow of information in respect of the contents of any such news.

Matthews said the complainants sought a declaratory order‚ a final and structural interdict‚ which would force the broadcaster to reverse its decision not to air footage of violent protests.

He argued that the function of Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee was merely to investigate and recommend to the authority what action is to be taken‚ if any.


“Consequently‚ it is submitted that on this ground alone‚ this application is ill conceived and ought to be dismissed‚” said Matthews.

William Bird‚ Media Monitoring Africa director‚ said on Thursday evening the SABC’s response was “disappointing”.

“Their papers are disappointing to say the least. Still no rationale or justification given. No link to why or how their efforts will have a positive or even desired impact. Instead denial and inaccuracy‚” he said.

TMG Digital/BDlive

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