‘You've got two choices: the door or the window’ – Jimi Matthews to SABC staff

Motsoeneng and Matthews took 'hardline approach' to any objections

‘You've got two choices: the door or the window’ – Jimi Matthews to SABC staff

15 July 2016

Cape Town – Former SABC acting CEO Jimi Matthews told eight reporters they could choose "the door or the window” if they disagreed with the broadcaster's new policies, according to court papers.

The journalists, dubbed the "SABC 8", filed an urgent application on Friday seeking direct access to the Constitutional Court. They want the SABC’s recent policies declared "unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid", and the disciplinary charges against them dropped.

In an affidavit, the journalists allege that COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Matthews took a hardline approach to any objections to the SABC’s new editorial shift at a meeting with two senior journalists.

"If people do not adhere, get rid of them. We cannot have people who question management. This is the last time we have a meeting of this kind," Motsoeneng allegedly told Foeta Krige and Krivani Pillay.

"It is cold outside. If you do not like it you can go. You’ve got two choices: the door or the window," then acting CEO Matthews allegedly added.

Matthews resigned from the SABC on June 27, saying he had "compromised his values as a journalist" and that the recent changes at the broadcaster were wrong.

SABC 'unmoved'

Economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, who has worked at the broadcaster since 1992, wrote the affidavit on behalf of the eight.

In it, she said editorial policies imposed by the SABC in recent weeks violated both their rights and the public's right to media freedom, making their positions "simply intolerable".

She claimed the SABC remained unmoved after the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) awarded the eight journalists the annual Nat Nakasa Award for integrity and courage in the media on June 10.

"On the morning of Monday, June 11, the SABC issued further disciplinary charges against the first seven applicants. Those charges remain pending."

Gqubule lamented the broadcaster's decision to ignore the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (Icasa) recommendation that the SABC withdraw its editorial policy on protests.

'The SABC is in crisis'

"Despite all of this, and the near universal condemnation of its Protest Policy, the SABC and its management still remain defiant," her affidavit continued.

"Given all of this, and the culture of fear and silence that is now permeating the SABC newsroom, the SABC is literally in crisis.

"The only way that this crisis can be effectively resolved is for this Court to grant direct access and deal with this matter so that clarity and finality is achieved."

The eight journalists are: Gqubule, Pillay, Krige, Busisiwe Ntuli, Jacques Steenkamp, Lukhanyo Calata, Vuyo Mvoko, and Suna Venter.

The journalists also want the suspensions of Gqubule, Krige and Venter to be reversed.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi was named as one of the respondents in the application.

The others are Icasa, Media Monitoring Africa, Save Our SABC coalition, Freedom of Expression Institute, the Helen Suzman Foundation, and Sanef.

They had until Monday to reply.

This article first appeared on News24, see here.